After more than 1,500 topics that span 103 pages on the Duke section alone, the founder of CollegiateACB has decided to sell the university gossip forum due to recent negative attention the website has received.
Since its launch almost exactly two years ago, the Duke page has remained steadily in the top five most active universities on the site, said CollegiateACB founder Tim O’Shea. Following the firestorm of media attention surrounding The Chronicle's Feb. 14 profile on Lauren, the freshman adult film actress, the site exploded with negative attention. More than 800 new threads have been posted to the Duke section in the past 30 days.
O'Shea is selling the website through an auction online. Bids are accepted via a Flippa account. In the description, O’Shea wrote that one of the reasons that he wants to sell the site is because recent media attention “is something that has deeply impacted relationships with friends and family.”
“The whole Duke debacle has helped it gain more notoriety than it already had,” O’Shea said of the site. “The traffic is the highest it has ever been.”
Rather than being a place for expression, CollegiateACB became a place known for harmful comments and potential bullying, O’Shea said. He noted that he no longer wanted to read the comments.
“I really don’t read the site to be honest,” O’Shea said. “I just don’t want to be tied to something so negative.”
More than 250 colleges and universities have CollegiateACB profiles, totaling around 1,000 individual registered user accounts.
In the past month, the site has garnered significantly more than 100,000 unique viewers, O’Shea said. And in the 2013 calendar year, viewers more than doubled from the 2012 totals.
The site continues to grow monthly, O’Shea said—and it increases in monetary value everyday.
“It has the potential to make millions,” he said.
The value, however, is not enough to outweigh the drawbacks to being associated with the site as he moves into a new chapter of his life, O’Shea said.
Bidding for the website began at just $1. As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, the bidding price was up to $27—with 6 bids submitted.
Although he hopes to make money from the sale, O’Shea said the financial gain was not one of the reasons for selling the site—noting that he would have made more money from keeping the site.
O’Shea, a graduate from the University of Central Florida, is currently enrolled at New York Law School. He plans to use any profits from the sale to fund a new technology start-up company.
“My next venture will definitely have a more positive and beneficial connotation to it,” O’Shea said.
Although recent publicity has been largely negative, O’Shea noted that there have been many positives to come from the site.
“I know for a fact that I have helped hundreds of college students,” he said.
After an anonymous poster had been making death threats towards women on the College of William and Mary’s page, CollegiateACB worked with the university and police to track the student.
The IP addresses led police to Benjamin Zavelsky, a freshman at the College of William and Mary, who was subsequently arrested and expelled, O’Shea said.
CollegiateACB was not the first website to provide an outlet for university gossip. Alumnus Matt Ivester—Trinity '05—founded JuicyCampus.com in 2007. The website was the first major anonymous college gossip website.
After JuicyCampus shut down in 2009, two graduate students from Johns Hopkins University and Wesleyan University created CollegeACB—which subsequently led to the Panhellenic Association to petition for the University to ban it from campus.
What started as a spring break project between friends, O’Shea and his then-partner founded CollegiateACB as a safer alternative to previous gossip sites.
“The difference between me and other people is that I knew the repercussions that this could have,” O’Shea said. “I was able to remove thousands of posts that others probably wouldn’t have.”
Unlike previous sites, key words from threads on CollegiateACB cannot be found through search engines, thus more thoroughly protecting the anonymity of students who are discussed on the threads.
Whoever purchases the site will have control over how its ethics are guided, O’Shea said. But he hopes that they continue to maintain the standards he has set.
As for the criticism that CollegiateACB allows students to unfairly be called out on the Internet, O’Shea said that it says more about the people who hide behind the anonymity of their computers to put down their peers than it does about the students being discussed.
“It really just shows who they are as a person,” O’Shea said.