Gossip website targets SIU students

By Gus Bode

Maggie Weinstein had never heard of a website called The Dirty until her friends said her photo and negative personal information about her had been posted on the site.

The website, TheDirty.com, asks viewers to anonymously submit gossip about people of the  community. According to the website’s mission statement, “The content that is published contains rumors, speculation, assumptions, opinions, and factual information.”

Weinstein said the description of her contained offensive language and false information.

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“It is embarrassing that my school and other important people in my life can come across this,” said Weinstein, a sophomore from Chicago studying social work. “I want people to know me for the successful, positive and happy person that I am instead of the horrible, false things posted.”

The Dirty separates its posts by cities and colleges. Southern Illinois University is among the site’s hundred top colleges.

According to Compete.com, a web traffic analysis service, The Dirty attracts over 200,000 visitors per month.

The website gained popularity in 2009 after posting topless photos of Miss California pageant winner Carrie Prejean, whose crown was later stripped as a result.

Jon Poynter, a sophomore from Frankfort studying graphic design, found information about him on the website last summer. He said it angered him and he does not know who submitted his picture to the website.

“I think the website should be shut down,” he said. “The stuff that was said is not true and people should not say stuff like this because it could lead to further consequences.”

Nik Richie, The Dirty’s owner, has received public scrutiny from Dr. Phil McGraw,  who accused Richie of perpetuating cyber bullying. In response, Richie said the purpose of the website is not to hurt people.

“It’s to get a rise out of people,” he said.

Jean Cunningham, chief psychologist at the Wellness Center, said she thinks the purpose of gossip websites is to be hurtful.

“Almost every human being cares about how others feel about them, so to be publicly depicted in a negative manner is going to be hurtful to anybody,” she said.

Weinstein said she thinks The Dirty’s participants have low self-esteem. She said she thinks people who post anonymously on gossip websites have nothing better do with their time.

“A person who has to anonymously put other people down to make themselves feel better just shows the type of person they really are,” she said.

Another subject on the website, Brandon Roach, a senior from Danville studying cinema and photography, said he was not bothered by the things that were posted about him. Although the comments were lewd, Roach said because they were lies, he did not feel hurt.

“I laughed as soon as I saw the picture and read the caption they had for it,” he said. “I thought it was kind of clever, actually, and had no problem with it.”

Roach said gossip websites such as The Dirty are just ran by people trying to make money. He said the site and similar ones are wrong and can hurt other people but still act as a business for somebody.

“There are a lot of shady businesses out there,” he said, “And if it’s making money and there are legal ways to do it, it will exist.”

The Dirty makes money through advertisements and event promotions. Clubs pay for events at which Richie will appear and later blog about. These events cost clubs anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000.

To those who have been posted on the site, Richie offers the option to contact him so the picture can be removed. “Email me nicely and I’ll take it down,” Richie said on the TV show Dr. Phil.

However, students have had a hard time getting their photos removed. According to the website’s FAQ section, removal is done at discretion of the staff.

Weinstein said she worries about how the post will continue to affect her reputation.

“I think the website can put myself and others posted on it in jeopardy when applying for jobs and such in the future, especially when the things posted have only negative and harmful things to say,” she said.

Weinstein said she thinks websites like The Dirty should be shut down.

“They cause nothing but drama and havoc,” she said. “What is really the point of them anyway?”

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