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The Confessionals is a group of anonymous forums maintained by Oberlin graduate Shibo Xu and developed by various short-term collaborators. They provide a space for college and university students to speak openly and candidly, often on taboo subjects. They've become a source for advice, but have also generated controversy over the prevalence of anonymous personal attacks.
The first confessional created was Oberlin Confessional, created by Harris Lapiroff based on an idea he'd gotten from a similar Livejournal community. This original confessional gained in popularity until its original creator left, after which Shibo assumed control of the site.
When introduced to a college, the confessional often generates a lot of controversy, particularly if it has become a source for anonymous personal attacks. Using the names of others is strictly prohibited under the terms and conditions of the Confessional, but names often appear in violation of these rules. Although these confessions are usually removed from the site, they have the ability to do considerable damage while they remain visible. As such, the administrations of many colleges have spoken out forcefully against these forums, but are usually unable to do more without being accused of censorship
Some critics seriously question whether anonymous attacks against individuals qualifies as protected "free speech". Some critics, including prominent legislators, are taking a close look at the degree to which an institution such as a college, Connecticut College for example, may be liable for continued inaction in regard to confessional sites linked to their institutions.
There are currently confessionals for ten different colleges and universities:
In addition to the confessionals above, Shibo has created a joint confessional, open to the public, for the summer of 2008. The summer confessional was bought back again for the summer of 2011 and 2014:
The site also expanded to neighborhoods in August 2014 with the launch of the Dumbo Confessional.