add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );Herrd and the BC community - BANG.
John Sexton / Gavel Media

Herrd and the BC community

It’s been roughly two years since the anonymous social media platform Herrd first graced the screens of students across campus. Certainly, the app has been entertaining, inspiring campus-wide pizza parties, and giving tall girls a well-deserved confidence boost. Many of the best Boston College inside jokes spawned on Herrd, including the omniscient Eye Bus and CSOM’s in-depth Ethics Initiative. It’s also been a source of information regarding class recommendations and navigating the housing process. More recently, though, Herrd has felt like a dive into the darkest corners of BC. Users have started to abuse the anonymity offered by the app, resulting in what feels like a steady increase in negative or hateful posts.

It’s disheartening to see this once-beloved platform devolve into a breeding ground for hatred and gossip. It's very common to scroll past a few silly posts, chuckle, then stop quickly when the next post appears, attacking a certain body type, political ideal, or gender. Most recently, the app blew up with theories regarding the removal of all four Williams RAs. Once Herrd received news of the story, theories spiraled in all directions and without any response from BC as to what actually happened, there is no way to confirm what is fact versus fiction. Social media isn’t the only way rumors spread, but on Herrd, there is no accountability in terms of who is spreading those rumors. The RAs involved in the issue could post their side of the story, but there is also no way for users to verify who those posts come from. Though posting full names is against the Herrd Terms of Use, situations similar to the RA one allow posters to allude to individuals without ever naming them. 

Anonymity can, of course, also be a useful tool. Another recent Herrd storm surrounded a student who posted about their experience with sexual assault at BC. They were able to evade the regulations around posting full names by typing their message out on the Notes app, then posting a screenshot of the paragraph. The post generated controversy across Herrd, with a slew of posts both in support of and against the poster. Many students came to the defense of the accused assaulter, some claiming to know him and his character. All of these posts occurred behind the mask of anonymous accounts, including the poster. I believe this survivor’s story and can see the value of being able to post it anonymously, as it is their story and they can choose how they share it. In addition, I believe that posts like this one could help inspire victims to come forward with their own stories. However, it is difficult to use instances like these to defend the app’s anonymity rules when there are so many hateful posts. 

Herrd does have a protocol for dealing with issues such as hate speech and harassment. According to the app’s Terms of Use, users are prohibited to use Herrd to "harass, abuse, insult, defame, slander, disparage, intimidate, or discriminate based on gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, race, age, national origin, or disability.” Users can have their accounts temporarily banned for hateful posts, and there is a sense of accountability since users must sign up with their BC.EDU email address, however, one must ask if this protocol suffices in combating the amount of vitriolic messaging found on the app. First, it is impossible for users to know if other users who post hate speech are having their accounts revoked. There are no usernames, so any accountability happens privately. There is also little user power when it comes to responding to hateful content. YikYak, a similar app students may be familiar with from high school, allows users to downvote posts, much like Herrd. A post on YikYak, though, only needs to reach net -5 votes before it is automatically deleted. On Herrd, though, posts often reach far lower than -5 votes before being taken down and must be reported for action to be taken down. Herrd should look into this recent spike in hateful content and adjust its regulations to better serve students. We deserve a platform that keeps students safe from hate speech and holds users accountable for what they post. The app has great potential to continue to serve the BC community, but it seems like it is no longer doing so. It’s hard to imagine a return to the Herrd we all once knew and loved without some substantial changes to its Terms of Use.

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