Confessions Page Raises Questions on Free Speech

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Eager Harrisites reach for their phones to see Admin 1 and Admin 2 update the THHS Confessions Page and flood it with new confessions. Cue the screenshots.

The page’s amusing atmosphere attracts more than half of the school’s student body on Facebook. Created last summer, it is run by anonymous students who call themselves a1 and a2. As with the other confessions page, this one has raised questions of privacy, free speech, and anonymity.

The general attitude of the administration toward the THHS Confessions page is not one of admiration. Dean Robin Figelman calls the page “silly, for the lack of better words. You’re hiding from feelings, your own emotions, and saying things on social media that could be said in person.”

Students of the THHS student body have mixed feelings about the page. In some cases, individuals found them derogatory.

Freshman Amisha Saha recalls, “Someone called me out on a low score on I got, resulting in people judging me by my grades.”       

Freshman Jacqui Valenti believes the page is popular because “it’s easier to say you like someone or hate something without having your name on it.”

Sophomore Aaron Fernando, the designer of the cover photo and profile picture of the THHS Confessions page, took a more cautious stance on the issue. He says, “I think it’s a cool, fun way for us to interact with each other online. I know there are plenty of problems in using it. However, it is really fun to read when I’m bored.”

Aaron finds that the popularity of the page relates to how “no one can prove that you said or didn’t say something. It’s also good for venting your feelings or just to share an anecdote or something with the student body.”

Some posts don’t relate to specific people but can be inflammatory in nature in a broader sense. Confession #3150 read as: “Twinkle twinkle little star/I’m going to bomb the whole world,/ALLAHU AKBAR,”

Referencing this, senior Minahil Khan says, “Honestly, it’s disappointing as a Muslim to see that an individual would find it funny to post that. I wouldn’t expect any better from that page—I know that a bunch of immature kids submit these ‘confessions,’ and that post displays nothing but ignorance.”

Admin 1 of the page writes, “There’s no real formula for determining whether a confession is worthy of being posted. It mostly depends on how we interpret the word choice and tone.

The use of quotation marks around the confessions demonstrates that the opinions expressed within the quotes do not match those of the page’s admins.”

He or she adds, “While we don’t necessarily condone those posts, freedom of speech is one of the most important amendments in the entire Constitution. People are free to say anything they want as long as it isn’t libelous in nature, and these posts don’t directly attack any individual member of the school.”

U.S. History teacher Jaime Baranoff explains that the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law restricting these five freedoms of citizens,” and this “limits the government and protects the rights of citizens to exercise freely what they believe.”

Fellow History teacher Linda Steinmann added, “The first amendment protects us from government abuse of our rights. In the case of online anonymous gossip or hate there is no first amendment protection, as Facebook could delete any inappropriate content without challenge since every user accepts the terms of service.”

In other words, although citizens have a right to free speech, nobody is obligated to publish everything that someone says, and while the government cannot choose what can or can’t be said, a company like Facebook can.

For Admins 1 and 2 of the page, the issues of censorship and free expression are closely intertwined. Admin 1 concludes, “We’ll do our best to learn from our mistakes and continue to ensure the page is a safe place for all to express their thoughts while maintaining a minimal level of censorship.”

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