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Oxford Gossip website returns

Oxford Gossip, the infamous Oxford internet forum, reopened at the beginning of this week. The site, opened in 2003, provided a forum space for Oxford students to discuss the University’s social life and gossip.

It was forced to close in September 2007, following allegations of harassment and a failure to moderate the site’s content. The site has reopened with a new domain of www.oxfordgossip.co.nr. Nr stands for Nauru, a small island on the Pacific Ocean. It is thought that this is an attempt to protect the site from libel laws.

Matthew Richardson, the original founder of OxGoss, said that he knew nothing of the site’s relaunch.

Some students have argued the site is simply harmless fun, whilst others have stated that it had been used for the malicious targeting of individual students.

Katy Theobald, the President of OxWip said, “The anonymity of such a site allows people to post sensitive and potentially inaccurate comments.”

A University spokesperson said, “The Proctors have had no complaints about the revived website, but they would strongly advise students that anyone involved… is acting in a university context and must observe all the University’s regulations.”

Lewis Iwu, the OUSU President admitted “I had no idea the site was restarted.” However, he argued that the website had merits, “I think if used right, the website can be very useful. It will help people know what is going on in Oxford.” He added, “‘I think the website is fine to use, provided no one feels harassed or victimised”.

Niall Gallagher, a student at Worcester College, admitted that he used the forum before it was closed and added he had found it “quite entertaining”. He said, “it was maintained by the same sort of people generally – Union and OUCA. I was disappointed it closed. To a large extent it wasn’t malicious”.

His sentiments were echoed by Guy Levin, a Corpus Christi student who stated that the website was popular “because everyone was on it” and added that it was “amusing”.

However, another student stressed the site’s more negative aspects. He said, “the worst thing was threads like ‘The **** List’, naming and shaming all those people unfortunate enough to have got 3rds, and one Facebook hot or not thread, where OxGoss regulars would find what they thought were mingers on Facebook and emotionally abuse them for kicks. I understand it caused some serious distress to some of the people who were targeted. That was really low.”

Rosanna McBeath, OUSU’s Welfare VP said, “‘Gossip’ can be very harmful to individuals involved, especially when spread across the internet, with its wide reaching effects. I hope this time, the website is better controlled to prevent the problems that arose last time.”

Matthew Richardson explained “at its peak OxGoss was getting more hits than Oxfordstudent.com and Cherwell combined. It started to be used as a tool for national journos to spy on Oxford students and several national media outlets just quoted OxGoss directly in their stories.”

Another Oxford graduate, an administrator and a moderator of the old site said, “it was supposed to be a thing for my friends, internal fun.”

However, he admitted that “it got out of hand” saying, “it resulted in slander, affecting people’s employment prospects. We tried to moderate it but it always came back with people posting more and more”. After the site was closed in 2007, he said that both he and Richardson were “very, very relieved to see the back of it. It caused way too much fallout and loss of trust, particularly in Union circles.”

The website also attracted the attention of the University’s proctors who posted a warning to all students involved in the website or others like it.
This time round, Iwu called for restrained monitoring of the site, “I believe in free speech and the proctors should treat the website like the papers. They should just keep an eye on it and take up the concerns of students with a complaint.”

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