By Ellie Brown, News Subeditor
There is a certain type of Bristruth that is guaranteed to get a response. The controversial ones. Yet, there is no more controversy here than in any other corner of the internet.
Though only a minority among the jokes, complaints, and stories about being a student at the University, these ‘truths’ voice polarising opinions and are often linked to what might be called ‘sensitive’ issues. Examples include a defence of the Warwick lads who set up a misogynistic group chat and, more recently, one branding the presence of feminists for pro-life society at the Freshers’ fair ‘disgusting.’
For some, the presence of these views on the page is evidence that Bristruths has gone too far. They argue that it must do more to ban potentially upsetting or offensive views from its page. In a similar vein, others think that a page with such importance in student culture should not be moderated by anonymous admins, as such power becomes unaccountable.
Though I have sympathy with some of these views, I disagree with them.
First, while some online debates can and do become toxic very quickly, often descending into shouting matches and personal attacks over constructive discussion, this doesn’t usually happen in the Bristruths comment sections. Perhaps it is because we are all students at the same University, but the arguments in the comments rarely go beyond personal stories, battles of statistics or long paragraphs outlining a commenter’s view – often with an invitation to "DM me" or "come to my society to learn more".
It doesn't matter that Bristruths admins are anonymous, because they are accountable in other ways
There will always be exceptions to this rule, but the page’s admins always have the option to report or delete comments. Knowing when to do this is another question – and given that the page’s admins are anonymous, perhaps their own views interfere with the page’s content too much.
This leads me to my second point. It doesn’t matter that Bristruths admins are anonymous, because they are accountable in other ways. The page still has to abide by laws against hate speech, even if Facebook has been lax at removing these in the past.
More importantly, students aren’t going to read the page if they are pissed off. Posts which are controversial may get more traffic and reactions, but they are also likely to piss people off – hence why they tend to be outnumbered by more light-hearted and non-political ones. Those which are posted can be debated in the comments, and the page can always be unfollowed, or complaints sent in. Anonymity also protects the admins from pestering or abusive messages from other students in their life outside of Bristruths; much as their anonymous submission form does the same with those who post controversial views.
Students aren't going to read the page if they are pissed off
Last but not least, it’s important to keep these posts in perspective. Free speech exists for a reason, people can and do disagree with each other, so it is fair for a message board representing students in all their diversity to reflect this.
There are boundaries – bullying and attacks on named individuals aren’t allowed, for instance – but Bristruths doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a conversation between students. Nothing there is more controversial than that which may be overheard at a party or down the pub.
Bristruths is not perfect, and I accept that
In fact, it might be better for students to know these views are out there, so they can combat them – either by talking to others in the comments section or joining a wider political campaign.
Bristruths is not perfect, and I accept that. The pressures of gaining internet traffic and keeping as many students as interested and engaged as possible means that it is likely to represent an exaggerated version of student life. But most students know this, and there is no more controversy here than in any other corner of the internet.
Why should Bristruths – an online community run by students, for students – be any different?
Do you think Bristruths is a positive online community or a forum for hate? Let us know.