Written by Isabella Pojuner, transcribed by Zehra Jafree and edited by Morgan Fairless. Illustration by Amelia Jabry.
Along with receiving between 60 to 70 anonymous submissions a day, rescuing lost Oyster cards, bolstering BNOC reputations and fuelling political rivalries, LSELove has brought a twisted sense of community to an often disparate campus. The question in the heads of many is: who runs it?
Last week, The Beaver came closer than ever to solving this question as we sat down with two young men who moderate the page. They refused to give us their names and were secretive about almost everything, in line with the ethos of a page that leaves more questions unanswered than answered. We got coffee at the Espresso Room and queried them about their objectives.
“It’s a love confessions page” said one of the men, “It takes the seriousness out of uni. The things that are said on our page are quite outspoken… but that’s a good part about all the confessions pages across the country, not just London universities – it just allows people to voice their opinion.”.
The two men – who seemed to be 20 or so – did not want to say if they were LSE students. They’re part of a larger team of four people, including one woman. They refused to comment on rumours that an alumnus from Warwick set up the page last year. When asked, they did not wish to disclose their demographic makeup, but insisted they were “ethnically diverse”. They were frank towards some of our questions but seemed unnecessarily covert about others.
We asked why they value their anonymity so much. “The page represents the voice of the students, it’s not about us. We’re not doing it for fame or to be known around campus and that’s why we are trying to voice the opinion of the students…that’s why there might be some controversial posts, but at the end of the day it’s a social media page, it’s freedom of expression. We’re not biased, we see it as humour as well, I feel like people have to take it as a joke.”
Running a successful submissions page takes effort. “I’m constantly on my phone” says one of them, adding that they usually spend at least an hour a day managing the page. We asked what motivates them. They like “looking at how the page has grown” and the feeling of providing “a service to the students”.
LSE can be stressful, but the moderators feel like their page provides a much-needed breathing space for students with extremely busy lives. However, the page has also been mired by controversy— many argue that it is a space that welcomes harassment towards certain individuals.
Many times, the page has been a home for questionable content, with accusations of racism, sexism and beyond. We stressed that many students are frustrated that submitters can’t be held accountable. “So what’s your opinion on a fake Twitter account that’s posting things you don’t necessarily agree with?” They shoot back. “The whole point of the submissions is that they are anonymous, we don’t know where they’re coming from. We know if one slips through that’s offensive all we can do is remove it – but we can’t trace it.” They told us “anything that’s offending someone or insulting someone, if we notice that slip through, we’ll remove that immediately”.
We wondered if they considered the potential psychological impact some posts may have. “I think in the future we were thinking about posting a couple of links for mental health organisations, because we are getting [concerning] posts and we’re not really sure what to do. We had some this week about the counselling service at LSE being quite poor.”
After we pressed them several times throughout the interview, the moderators confessed that they do not have a set of rules or a moderation framework. Instead, the process appears to be ad hoc: they vote on any posts that an individual admin ‘flags’; if more than half of the team approves of the submission, it gets posted. They say that about 70-80% of submissions are posted. They claim to screen for “sexism or racism, and political extremism”. Towards the end of the interview, they promise to work on a framework for “more sensitive posts… We’ve realised it recently so it’s our main priority.”
Compared to other university anonymous submission pages, LSE’s is quite successful. “The proportion of the amount of students who like the page at LSE is a lot higher than UCL where it’s like one to three [ratio], whereas here it’s over half”. Between January 30 and February 27, they had received 500 new page likes and just under 800,000 engagements.
They claim that their group of moderators is “diverse…All different political stances, male and female and different ethnicities as well.” Because of this, they refused to acknowledge that biases might impact their moderation process.
They believe LSELove service has s a net positive effect on campus, while discussing commercial opportunities – “in the future we are going to release some merchandise as well and continue to grow the page”. They hope to share the profits with a charity, in all likelihood, one for mental health.
The page also enterprises in the realm of event organising, with the infamous LSELove Traffic Light Party was a test for future events. They regret choosing a Thursday to hold the party, but affirm that it was a success.
Beyond the politics and Thick of It memes, LSELove is a place for…well, love. But, is the page a good platform for dating? “Look, I don’t think you can compare it to something like Tinder, because obviously say you put someone’s initials, there could be 150 people with those initials at the university. We’re getting posts with full names [but] we try and keep them out.
A lot of students use the page to communicate thoughts they wouldn’t feel comfortable saying in front of their friends or other people on their course. It’s quite rare, but say if that person got tagged in a post and they ended up meeting for coffee then that’s quite a confidence boost for that person. It’s giving people another chance.”
When we leave, we walk towards LSE. They separate from us and walk down the lane towards High Holborn. We wonder if we’ll ever see their faces again.
The Other Confessions Pages
Behind the Admins
Camfess: “We are now a team of moderators
Number of Submissions
Exehonestly: “We get about 200-400 per day from a system called
Bristruths: “We receive around 1.5k submissions per week, but we tend to only post the best and funniest third of submissions. It varies depending on the time of term however, exams period seems to be busier, and holidays are much quieter (we pause over summer).”
Bristruths: “As a page, we are probably most famous for the story of Herman the Cleaner, a beloved member of university staff who received £1.5k raised through the page so that he could afford to return to Jamaica to celebrate his wedding in his home of Jamaica and see relatives he hadn’t been able to see for a long while.”
Leedfess: “Some of the most frequent issues that come up are Uni of [Leeds] vs Beckett, North-South divide, Torys vs Labour – mostly things with some element of controversy. It seems that our subscribers’
Dealing with Controversy
Exehonestly: “Our page is too new relative to the [Bracton Law Society racist group chat] scandal. [The society’s] name is tarnished and the committee punished, the University is moving on in that BLS is a bit of a meme that gets mentioned. Our stance is quite simple, the text messages were disgusting and I don’t know anyone who disagrees with that.”
WarwickLove: In regard to the recent Warwick group chat scandal
Bristruths: “Oh it’s all trash. Well, not all of it. Most of it. It’s not high form content or anything that’ll change the world but that’s why we love it! It’s great for reading when you’re procrastinating or before bed or on the loo.”
Bath Secret Admirers: “I didn’t have rules per se from the start but I just thought, is there any possible chance this could be taken badly, and if so, I just wouldn’t post it, because we have so many posts that filtering them out like this doesn’t really hurt us – it’s just not worth the risk anyway.”
Leedsfess: “We decide which posts to accept or reject based firstly on the code of conduct as set out by Facebook and by the uni-truths organisation (no hate, no creepy posts, nothing promoting non-medical drugs etc) and then just based on what we think is funny, particularly tag-able, or will encourage engagement from our readers. Our acceptance ratio is about 40% on average.”