7th IssueCampusScience & Technology

Behind The Controversy At RateBU

By Gabe Stein • December 5, 2010 at 11:59 pm


“If people are going to use it, might as well make it.”

Those are the words of College of Engineering Sophomore Justin Doody, who until today was the anonymous founder of RateBU.com, a new website that has swept through BU’s campus and gained over 1,160 users since being launched on Friday afternoon.

The story of how Doody got the idea for RateBU and how the Quad found him all comes back to Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. About a month ago, Doody and some friends saw The Social Network, a film about how Zuckerberg created Facebook, the now-ubiquitous social networking site that dominates the online lives of most college students. In the film, before he programs Facebook the young New Jersyan creates Facemash, a site that allows Harvard students to rate girls against each other. When Doody saw the concept on the silver screen, he decided to bring a similar idea to BU:

“Me and some friends just saw it [Facemash] and were like, ‘wow, we could make this’,” said Doody. “We knew the concept wasn’t unique at all, but it was still a lot of fun. Everyone I talked to about it was just like, ‘yeah, you should do that.’”

In the film, Zuckerberg gets in trouble because he hacks into private servers to grab photos of the girls. Doody came up with an ironic workaround that he hopes will keep him out of trouble: ask users to upload photos. From Facebook.

“Everything on this site is user generated, I’m not adding any of these girls. I let the users do that, and then I just approve it or whatever,” he said. “So I mean, all the photos on the site come from Facebook.”

Kara Korab, who graciously agreed to let us post this, on RateBU.

Kara Korab, who graciously agreed to let us post this, on RateBU.

The prospect of strangers being able to upload photos onto a website so that people can judge them has some of the site’s “early adopters” on edge. Kara Korab (CGS ’14), a Quad photographer whose friends found her on the site Sunday morning, said she thought being in the site’s top girls would be hard to handle. “I can’t imagine how people in top 15 people feel. I don’t know how I’d feel up there. I feel like they’re really exposed.”

“I would have liked to have been notified that I was put on this website,” said Adriana Alcivar (CGS ’13), who was one of the top five women on the website as of Sunday night. “Whoever wanted to do it just did it.”

Casey Prusher (CAS ’13), a Quad copy editor whose photo was found on the site during our investigation was similarly upset. “Whether or not it’s legal, it feels like someone took my information. I’m unwillingly being looked at and possibly being defamed or disparaged on a site I don’t condone,” she said.

Doody did not seem as concerned.

“I didn’t maliciously try to do this,” he said. “I think people are going to do this no matter what. I just created something that’s a little more public and visible as opposed to just like, gossiping at lunch or whatever.” Doody also noted that many of the girls on the site had uploaded photos of themselves, and that more than half of the site’s users at the time of publication were female.

However, Doody was initially unwilling to be subject to the same visibility he subjected his site’s girls to. As of Sunday, Doody had chosen to remain anonymous. The founder did not post his name on the website, used an anonymous contact form on the site, and entered in fake WHOIS data when he registered the domain, which is of questionable legality itself, especially if the use of the domain is determined to be illegal.

On the site’s “Legality” page, Doody quotes Facebook’s terms of service to justify the legality of uploading girls’ photos onto his site:

For now though here is an excerpt from facebooks terms:

“4. When you publish content or information using the “everyone” setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).”

Also don’t forget that this is a user generated website. This sites concept comes from the site FaceMash featured in The Social Network Movie. The problems FaceMash ran into included breach of security, because Zuckerburg hacked into confidential servers, which isn’t a factor here. He also faced violation of individual privacy rights because the pictures came from a private source. The source of photos on this site somewhat ironically is facebook which clearly states that once you post pictures and other material online you are giving up some of your rights.

How right he was.

Click to see the full post.

In an even more ironic twist, the Quad was able to ascertain the founder’s identity within an hour of first discovering the site through, you guessed it, Facebook. We found a post, accessible to anyone in the BU Facebook network, that Doody made on a friend’s wall. In the post, he asks his friend to check out the RateBU site. Another one of his friends asks if the site is public, and recommends a marketing tactic: posting references to the site on likealittle.com.

From there, the Quad got in contact with Doody, again using Facebook, who admitted to founding the site and consented to being interviewed, acknowledging that his name was going to get out eventually.

So we asked why, if that were the case, he chose to launch the site anonymously at all. His answer: “I just wanted to see how reception was before people knew that it was me. That’s really it. I think most people would do it anonymously, if they were making it.”

That reception has been mixed. Doody claims to have received only 10 negative emails from his over 1,000 users. The Quad had no trouble finding women who were upset, despite the text at the top of the website that tells girls “please don’t take the site too seriously or as an insult in any way.”

Alcivar said that when she first saw the site, she was not yet on it, but thought right away, “I hope my picture doesn’t come on this site. I don’t really want to be on this site.” When her photo did appear, Alcivar admitted to being surprised. “It didn’t even cross my mind that I would be on it,” she said. “And I didn’t want to be on it.”

She said the site sends a bad message about BU. “It’s like, all of the girls at BU are just kind of like a piece of ass and not really taken seriously. I think that’s what this site is kind of embodying. It is degrading. We’re at BU, it’s a really good school, but like, BU is known for, apparently, attractive girls.” She added, “I just wish my photo wasn’t on there.”

Prusher also thought the site reflected poorly on the school. “I think BU’s a better school than that. I think it’s like, it’s just an ugly mark on our student body.”

Prusher and Alcivar are considering asking for their photos to be taken down, and both Prusher and Korab hope the site will eventually die out.

Doody, on the other hand, is already looking ahead. “BU is sort of the test one, to see how it goes, and if I do face any major problems. But I have thought about definitely expanding,” he said.

Is the next Mark Zuckerberg going to come from BU? Doody admitted to admiring the Facebook founder, scruples and all.

“He came up with this idea, and Facebook of course, so yeah,” Doody said. “I think everyone would like to be the world’s youngest billionaire.”

How do you feel about RateBU.com?

View Results

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Responses

  1. John

    To the author,
    You should interview BU officials like Dean Elmore to see if they are doing anything about it.

  2. John S.

    Dean emailed Justin saying BU could do nothing about it

  3. bcAlum

    This Justin Doody is such a wannabe. FAIL. Come up with your own ideas. rating BU women, ratemyface, hotornot, all that is so passe. If you are in college wouldn’t you be learning to have your own ideas? Broaden horizons not just rate the girl next door. Or broaden morality? or grow up from being a script kiddie at least…
    John is right; where are BU deans in this story
    On a side: BU is not known for hot girls at all

  4. Pwik

    Just because you can, does not mean that you should. Justin, would your parents be proud of you for this? Will this be something you will be proud of having done once you get older? Just because you think someone else would do this does not mean that you personally need to cross that line. You can choose to be an ethical, thoughtful person doing good in the world. Or you can choose to exploit others for personal gain.

    Clearly, any girl could have a picture taken by someone posted to this site without her permission, Facebook notwithstanding. She is then subjected to humiliating comparisons completely against her will or choice. Ask yourself if this is something you would want happening to your own sister or girlfriend. Think about the moral stance you are taking.

    I encourage you, Justin, to search your conscience and choose to be a better person than this.

  5. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/769/209/421/

    there’s now a petition against rate bu.
    i’m glad people are standing up against this kid, but it’s too bad he’s getting so much attention for it … he obviously loves this scummy glory.

  6. Tim

    This is ridiculous, and I don’t mean the website. Guys do this every day, multiple times a day, only it’s not on a website. Women do the same thing when they talk about some hot guy they saw on the street. We all objectify people; it’s natural, especially in college. And if someone puts a picture on FaceBook that they allow everyone to see, they are making it possible for EVERYONE to see it– whether they’re on FaceBook or not. People are okay with anyone looking at pictures of them, but when a website is made that rates the photo, it’s immoral? It’s crazy how hypocritical people are. Girls will call other girls ugly all the time, but if a group of guys do it, it’s wrong. But if women are called pretty, they can’t get enough of it. This site doesn’t even say who is ugly, it says who is more attractive out of two pictures compared side by side at RANDOM. I agree with one of the earlier comments saying, “At least there isn’t a Not Top 10″ list. There is no button that says anyone is ugly, so I don’t even see the big deal. If there were, I could possibly understand all of the criticism, but since there isn’t, I think people need to stop being so sensitive about everything. If you feel so strongly against the website, then don’t go on it. I don’t use the site because I don’t think it’s that fun to rate women, but I honestly don’t see the harm in this since everyone does it every day, just in real life, not via website. This website doesn’t change anyone’s outlook on anything; people thought you were either attractive or not before this came out and they’ll feel the same way afterward… Stop making this such a big deal.

  7. Dr Lul

    YOU CAN STILL SIGN UP WITHOUT A @BU.EDU EMAIL

    JUST ADD

    “@bu.edu”

    AT THE END OF WHATEVER EMAIL YOU ARE USING WHEN YOU SIGN UP!

    THE SERVER WILL BE TRICKED!! TRY FOR YORUSELF

  8. BU

    Forget whether this website is legal or not. It hasn’t even been up a week and women around campus are now being harassed in their classes by men who have rated them on this website. I think there is a definite case for harassment against the site’s creator, and I think that it’s ridiculous for him to have made a site like this as it will probably hurt his own career in the long run…unless he wants to work for Mark Zuckerberg. Who probably would think this site is a pathetic attempt at a replication of FaceMash. I only heard about this site last night, and since then I have heard of about at least five women who discovered that someone posted their pictures on this site and were emotionally distraught. Like someone said in an above post, the site creator should just think about how he would feel if his mother was posted on a site like “RateBUMoms,” or his sister, or his grandmother, etc. It’s just gross. I really hope this site’s creator is ready to be one of the most praised students on campus by the men, and one of the most despised by the women. And I also hope that when he does make his site open to rating men that he is the first one to post a picture of himself to be critiqued so that he isn’t also labeled a hypocrite in addition to being immoral.

    • Mike

      Justin’s gotten internship offers from google already..btw…

      • Student

        Which I’m sure will be rescinded when they find out just how bad his programming is. Rumors are flying about how many people have already managed to hack into that thing. There are even photos of the backend online. What’s sad about this story is how much praise he’s getting and how little attention the fact that his site is poorly coded is getting.

  9. bustudent

    the best part about this is that at the end of the day i will have the last laugh- when doody can’t find a job because his employer googled his him name and i’m chilling in my penthouse office, or when he goes back to his parent’s house after another failed date and i go home to a successful significant other. don’t worry ladies, karma’s a bitch.

  10. Marcel

    Doody may not have meant to harm anyone (i.e., he may not realize just how sexist this is in practice, regardless of how often humans admire eachother on the street or how rich Zuckerberg turned out to be), but the girls on the website are getting leered at and talked about in dorms, dining halls, class, etc., which contributes to BU not feeling like a safe environment for those people, which is pretty shitty, considering that we came here to have a good experience and that BU is really expensive. His actions are having unintended consequences for girls on the site. Just because other people are posting the photos doesn’t absolve him of being responsible for it. And it’s interesting that, as others have noted above, although he had no qualms about putting up pictures of girls with their names, he hid behind anonymity until being outed by this paper.