CW: racism, classism, sexism, transphobia
ExeHonestly, the popular anonymous confessions page, has shut down after the University reported several posts containing Nazi propaganda to the Police.
In a lengthy statement published on 6 November, the ExeHonestly admins announced their plans to delete the page, citing their poor mental health and an overwhelming workload as reasons.
A spokesperson from Devon and Cornwall Police said: “Police are aware and are currently treating [the posts] as a hate incident.
“Enquiries are ongoing.”
The latest Exehonestly incident is now a police matter and likely the real reason for their closure.University of Exeter spokesperson
The ExeHonestly admins’ statement explained: “The University’s latest response has distressed us greatly and is another example of how out of touch they are with the student body.
“The University in their latest response has said that they care about ‘addressing serious issues of racism and mental health’; however, the impact of their needless escalation to genuine mistakes has been enormous.”
The statement continued: “For the University this is an issue of public relations, for us, it is an issue of our future livelihoods. Our team is terrified that our lives will be ruined if the university becomes aware of who we are.
“Not only that, but we are one of the most ethnically diverse student groups in Exeter, so there is an irony that the University is pursuing multiple BME students for not realising something was racist towards themselves.”
Regarding the several instances when racist posts were published, the admins stated: “it is standard practice on social media for posts to occasionally get through”.
The administrators concluded by thanking the student’s union, the Exeter Student’s Guild, for offering training to help the team spot “subliminally racist posts.”
They elaborated: “Although we don’t want to continue running this page, we suggest anyone considering starting their own confession page takes up their offer.”
The admins noted that “most of us did not want to let down those who used the platform to message us regularly about their mental health problems or felt that posts were the best way to cry for help.”
The admins intend to take the page offline once the post has been read by its followers.
Police are aware and are currently treating this as a hate incident. Enquiries are ongoing.Devon and Cornwall Police
A spokesperson from the University said: “There are no excuses for racism and no room for racist comments anywhere in Exeter – online, on our streets or on our university campuses where we cherish our students and staff from over 130 countries.
“The Exehonestly administrators are responsible for the content they post on their site and on multiple occasions posted offensive and harmful content. To continue to be anonymous and unaccountable in those circumstances is not acceptable.
“Online communities can play an important role in student life but administrators must understand that their actions have consequences and abide by the law. The latest Exehonestly incident is now a police matter and likely the real reason for their closure.
“The University of Exeter is a community of over 25,000 people and we will always strive to make it a safe, inclusive and welcoming place where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential.
“We want to thank all those who take a stand against racism in our community and all students and staff can contact the university at any time for help and support with details on our website: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/speakout/helpandadvice/.”
On 3 November, the page’s anonymous administrators approved several posts containing Nazi codes and catchphrases. At the time, the page was followed by more than 13,000 users.
One of the posts read: “People’s favourite number? Mine’s 1488”. The post was a direct reference to the fourteen-word white supremacist slogan coined by David Lane, a founding member of The Order, a white supremacist terrorist organisation.
In a statement published on 4 November, the University confirmed it had reported the page to the Police Hate Crime Unit and pledged to work with the police to identify the people who wrote the racist posts.
ExeHonestly’s initial response, which was published on 5 November, claimed the administrators did not know about the number’s true meaning. They said “we deeply regret that they cleared our attempts at scrutiny and have made people feel unsafe.”
During its two-year existence, ExeHonestly has been repeatedly accused of platforming racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and classist rhetoric.
A classist post published on 25 September 2019 said: “Why not just call it Pleb Soc? Get out of our uni you chavvy cretin.”
The Exehonestly administrators are responsible for the content they post on their site and on multiple occasions posted offensive and harmful content.University of Exeter spokesperson
In November 2018, the ExeHonestly administrators apologised for allowing a post claiming that “no N-word November” would be a “real challenge” .
On 5 October 2019, a transphobic post was approved. It read “They can be woman by social standards but they can never be female.”
An additional post published on 5 October 2019 which remains online reads: “Unpopular opinion: What women claim to b unequal is balanced out by having tits, eg free drinks, free entry and priority at bars etc Change my mind [sic].”
These posts were published despite breaching ExeHonestly’s own community guidelines, which contained the clause “Anonymity is not a pass for hate speech, harassment or any other violations of the Facebook Community Standards.”
According to ExeHonestly’s Community Guidelines, less than 0.5% of all approved posts contained discriminatory language.
It is unclear how the administrators arrived at these figures.
The Students’ Guild has been contacted for comment.
Additional reporting by Pete Syme