RateBU.com: How to Get Most Girls Angry

December 6, 2010 Hannah K 29 Comments

It was during a meeting for the library when someone asked the group, “Have you seen the site, RateBU.com?”

I hadn’t. Or maybe I had heard the name, but had no idea what the site was about…. Oh, maybe someone did a homegrown site like “RateMyProfessors”…. aw, that might be cute, acutally.

I was so, so, so very mistaken.

Some guy from the School of Engineering (Justin Doody) thought it would be a great idea to create a site taking cues from the movie The Social Network — which I admit to not having seen — the premise being a site where you rate two girls against each other over which is more attractive.

I’m all for freedom of speech. Go for it, pursue what you want, but this idea crosses some sort of moral or ethical boundary, and borders on terrible common sense. Did this boy’s mother not teach him that girls, despite what he might think, have feelings? That people have the right for their picture to not be posted on website without their consent?

Please, someone comment and correct me if I’m wrong, but you have to ask for permission to use someone’s likeness, like this website is doing. If this boy cowers and hides behind this clause from Facebook, as a defense, saying:

For now though here is an excerpt from facebooks terms:
“4. When you publish content or information using the “everyone” setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).”

I have to say that he is somewhat mistaken in his reading and understanding of this term of use. Yes, Facebook is warning you that anyone who has the internet could potentially use your picture and associate it with you. Use it “to associate […] with you.” This is point important. Perhaps Susie Q. Somebody has her privacy settings set to “Everyone,” but when this guy — or anyone! — then takes the picture, and puts it on a website without her knowledge, he is associating her with a site against her will and without her consent. I don’t pretend to know the legal ramifications of this action, but it is far from ethical.

Under the Subject of “Protecting Other People’s Rights” on the Facebook Terms of Use site (which you can access here), it reads:

7. If you collect information from users, you will: obtain their consent, make it clear you (and not Facebook) are the one collecting their information, and post a privacy policy explaining what information you collect and how you will use it.

Justin Doody must have glanced over this part of the terms of use. “Collecting information,” which I imagine even covers a publicly accessible photo from Facebook, requires consent! Additionally, it is infuriating that with today’s understanding of plagiarism, which BU Today covered today, people think that because it’s on the internet, they’re entitled to use it! First, you have to attribute things you find, regardless of what it is. It is a huge mistake to believe that one has free reign to use whatever they find on the internet in whatever manner they choose.

Under the heading of “Sharing Your Content and Information,” it reads:

1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (“IP content”), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (“IP License”). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

So technically, Facebook has the intellectual property rights of your photos and videos, once you post them. However, this license only applies to Facebook’s use of our photos. It does not grant some kid who has nothing better to do than to set up a site objectifying girls at his university the right to use our things without attribution. The “transferable, sub-licenseable” words in that clause above implies that it is Facebook’s decision whether or not someone’s content is used. It is not a random user’s choice. It is not some jerk on the internet’s decision. Even if you do use it, you have to get Facebook’s permission to use the content. I highly, highly doubt that Justin Doody, or anyone else involved with the site’s management or creation, asked for permission.

I wonder how Facebook would feel if it was brought to their attention that someone was running a site based on their intellectual property. I imagine they would be fairly pissed. Maybe it’s worth discussing with Facebook formally somehow.

All the lingo from Terms of Service aside, here’s a letter to Justin Doody:


I am appalled that you were raised to think that objectifying women the way you do is excusable. It is not. You can say “But we’re doing this for guys as well” all you want. That doesn’t make what you’re doing any better. Objectifying anyone in this way is deplorable. Your site shows blatant disregard for people’s feelings. Speaking as a woman, do you know how fragile a girl’s self-esteem can be? That being rated in a semi-public forum on how attractive you are could destroy the tenuous stronghold of a woman’s thoughts on herself? Maybe in private, amongst your adolescent cohorts, this is acceptable behavior. I regret to inform you that it is not acceptable in the real world. I somehow doubt you’ve reached that level of maturity.

Your site’s model on dating sites where you rate people’s “hotness” is from people who have willingly added their photos to the a mix and database. The people who participate in these types of sites have explicitly given consent, and the site uses the photos because the people are okay and take accountability for themselves. You strip the average girl of this accountability, and you don’t even have any of your own. You hide behind one clause of Facebook’s Terms of Service and ignore the rest. Grow up.

This entire site suggests that you do not value consent. That is completely irresponsible.

And perhaps I’m wrong about how your site operates: maybe the all content on your site is provided by people who willingly submit the photos, maybe I’m not giving you the benefit of the doubt. But I ask you to provide a reasonable, well thought-out counter argument to what I’ve written; “haters gonna hate” — as you wrote on a Facebook group against your site —  is far from a mature response and certainly would not hold its own in any real-world argument. Perhaps that tactic worked when you were in middle school, but as a member of a university such as BU, one would expect that you are old enough and mature enough to have some more accountability than that.


Call me some crazy, feminist bitch, if you’d like. But I will not apologize for thinking that women are people, not ‘things’ that someone can demean and rate at their own leisure, that women deserve to be treated better than this (or anyone! Even the guys you plan on rating!).

“Oh jeez, this girl must obviously be some raging feminist, so whatever she says is immediately incredible.” If this is your immediate response, then I urge you again, have a responsible, adult discourse with me.

This blog post uses information found at http://www.facebook.com/terms.phphttp://buquad.com/2010/12/05/ratebu/, and a brief excerpt from http://www.RateBU.com/legal.php.

Author: Hannah K
I am a senior majoring in Italian, minoring in visual arts, and working here and with an IT department. Writing and reading have always been important to me, and what a better place to combine these passions than the library blog?

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