Bored at Baker shut down by founder

by Anthony Robles | 1/17/17 2:30am

Bored at Baker, a messaging board created by Jonathan Pappas – known online by the pseudonym Jae Daemon – that gave Dartmouth students the ability to post and interact anonymously, has been shut down in conjunction with the entire “Bored At” network.

Pappas announced the decision on the developer blog for “Bored At” in early December 2016. The actual shutdown occurred Dec. 31, 2016. The “Bored At” network included similar messaging boards at Columbia University (Bored at Butler) and Carleton College in Minnesota (Bored at Carleton), among others.

The decision came as a result of a Pappas’ lack of interest in running the network due to its age, operational costs and the lack of upkeep and maintenance, which left the network open to cyberattacks.

Despite harboring a sizeable user base during its first years of existence, Bored at Baker soon saw a decline in active members due to the emergence of similar anonymous messaging applications such as Yik Yak.

Pappas originally founded the site Bored at Butler while an undergraduate at Columbia in 2006 and subsequently expanded to Dartmouth later that year, with other Ivy League Schools and Carleton receiving their own boards in the following years.

Bored at Baker had previously been shut down by Pappas in October 2015, after a couple of controversies in the years prior that had brought negative attention to the website.

In April 2013, during Dartmouth’s Dimensions program, which is designed to attract prospective students, members of the social justice group Real Talk protested issues such as sexism, homophobia and racism during the program’s final show. In response, several Bored at Baker users posted rape and death threats on the board directed towards many of the group’s members.

These threats prompted the administration to cancel classes for a day, replacing them with programming that was designed “to discuss Dartmouth’s commitment to fostering debate that promotes respect for individuals, civil and engaged discourse and the value of diverse opinions,” per a campus-wide email.

The following year, another user posted a guide that detailed how to rape a specific member of the Class of 2017. The student in question later stated that she had been sexually assaulted because of the post, which led to a protest on the Green against sexual assault that was attended by hundreds of students.

That same year, users suggested that Katie Van Syckle ’05 – a journalist working for Cosmopolitan magazine at the time – be invited to the now-derecognized Alpha Delta fraternity to “run train on her,” a euphemism for engaging in sexual acts with several men at the same time. Former Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson apologized to Van Syckle because of the post’s lewd content.

Despite the controversial comments that were posted on the site, the site’s content was regulated by a group of moderators that worked on a rotating basis. Former Bored at Baker moderator Aaron Pellowski ’15 said that he first created an account for the website during the summer before matriculation and continued to use the site until graduation.

As a moderator, Pellowski would log in and look at posts that had been reported and would then vote on whether the post should be removed from the site. Pellowski said that the site’s reliance on anonymous interaction gave people license to be crueler and more inhumane if that was their moral disposition.

“I think it allows people to say things that they would otherwise feel embarrassed or threatened to say if their name were attached to it,” Pellowski said. “But it then can also allow people to be more authentic about expressing their minority political and social opinions or trauma that they experienced in their life that they would otherwise be incapable of sharing via their public persona.”

Relating online anonymity to sociology, Neukom Fellow Joseph DiGrazia said anonymous online activity can result in individuals being more likely to engage in anti-social behavior.

“There is a basic idea that if nobody knows who you are, you can behave in an anti-social manner like making threats or posting offensive things that you wouldn’t normally say if people knew who you really were,” DiGrazia said.

DiGrazia said that for individuals with socially unacceptable views that they would express in an anonymous context but not express in a non-anonymous context, these sorts of behaviors may be more reflective of their actual views.

“That’s not to say necessarily though, that the views you’re seeing expressed in anonymous forums are more representative of the overall population because there may well be some strong selection effects going on where people who have certain views are more attracted to these anonymous forums for the specific reason that it gives them an opportunity to express these views without fear,” DiGrazia said.

Pappas did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Pellowski and Van Syckle are former members of The Dartmouth staff.