It’s a scene straight out of The Social Network.
You arrive at class one morning only to discover that your picture has been ranked thousands of times according to “hotness” next to the other girls at school. Hundreds of people have seen it. No one consented to this, but everyone is talking. The tagline? “You see them at school, You dream about them. Now it’s your turn to rate them!”
This was the scene at Dos Pueblos High School on Thursday, September 29 as dozens of girls at school discovered their Facebook pictures had been posted to a new Web site, FaceMash It DP, which encouraged viewers to rank their attractiveness against other Charger girls. Here’s how it worked: The girls’ profile pictures from Facebook were compiled and randomized. The Web site displayed two of the pictures, with each person’s “wins,” “losses,” and probability of winning beneath. You clicked on the one you thought was better looking. At the bottom were the top-ranked girls at school.
The original Web site was likely posted Tuesday night, although no record has been released of when exactly it went up. By Wednesday, word had spread to a group of prominent varsity athletes. By Wednesday night, several members of DP’s Engineering Academy were working together to take the Web site down. By Thursday, FaceMash had become the hottest piece of news on campus since Katy Perry’s surprise visit last year.
By Thursday afternoon, the original FaceMash was inaccessible after gaining more than a thousand hits; a notice on the Web site read it had been taken down because it was abusive. However, a follow-up site in exactly the same format (with only a slightly different URL) made the rounds less than 24 hours later and garnered more than 11,500 hits in two days.
Students had mixed feelings about the blog. Many of the girls whose pictures were posted saw it as an innocent act with few repercussions. Others, however, saw FaceMash as a degrading violation of privacy.
“Not even from a legal view, you’re objectifying women. How much of an asshole do you have to be to do that?” said Nikhil Shinday, an amateur computer programmer. Shinday was one of the first to take action against the site, bringing the issue to school administration Thursday morning.
The legal precedent Shinday used as the basis for his argument was Harvard’s “FaceMash case.” In 2001, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, had his first taste of fame after he started the short-lived but infamous FaceMash. The principle is the same — take hacked photos of girls on campus, show viewers two of them, and have them choose who’s better looking. The Web site gained thousands of hits in just hours, but Zuckerberg shut down the Web site upon facing disciplinary action — and even expulsion — by Harvard.
Legal issues surrounding FaceMash It DP include defamation and violation of privacy. A letter posted on District Attorney Joyce Dudley’s Web site defines cyber-bullying as harassment, intimidation, or threats toward any student over the Internet including through the use of pictures; the letter also states that the behavior “will not be tolerated.”
Meanwhile, Dos Pueblos Principal Shawn Carey said she was “shocked” by the site and would be pursuing the harshest legal action possible against the culprit or culprits. While the student body hasn’t heard a statement from the administration yet, Carey said the school is working with the district’s legal counsel to determine the appropriate course of action to “make an example” out of FaceMash’s founders.