Ratemash outrage: the website objectifying students without their consent

 

KCL students’ pictures appear on the ranking website. Have you checked YOUR Facebook privacy settings?

 

Outrage has been sparked amongst the King’s community recently by Ratemash, a website designed to rank students based on their physical attractiveness. Carrying designated profiles for 138 separate universities, Ratemash runs a ‘top 50’ system, with pages that rate male and female students from each institution in order of best appearance as voted for by Ratemash users.

The site functions in a similar manner to Facemash, the predecessor of Facebook referenced in the 2010 David Fincher film The Social Network. Instead of directly comparing two subjects, Ratemash asks users to give a series of subjects a ‘hot’ or ‘not’ rating.

However, permission for the use of their image and information is not obtained from those ranked by the site. Even more worryingly, links are provided which go directly to their Facebook profile – not only are you transferred there by clicking on a ‘ranked’ picture, but during the rating process, users are offered a ‘see Facebook profile’ option for each subject that will also re-route you to their personal account.

Furthermore, on signing up to Ratemash users are informed that “Ratemash will receive the following info: your public profile, friend list, email address and personal description.”

Roar! online Music Editor Oscar Davies, who appeared in the KCL ‘Guy’s Leaderboard’, said on being informed of his appearance on the site: “I think it’s quite frankly ridiculous that they can link my profile without me even realising and giving consent.”

Ratemash describes itself as a “buzzing community with members within universities mostly in the UK and around the world who like to go out, party and enjoy themselves”, also claiming that “the idea of Ratemash is to make it easier to meet new people in universities and to make going out cheaper, more fun and seamless.”

Indeed, there seems to be a strong link between Ratemash and the clubbing world, with the Regional Managing Partner for South UK Ollie Hall’s site biography stating that “he works directly with clubs, bars and restaurants”. The site itself offers users “free entrance and drinks at top nightclubs all over the world”, guest list entries and, apparently, “the chance to meet the people you fancy.”

This last particular point takes on an even more sinister tone in light of the fact that for each institution, Ratemash provides a ‘places nearby’ feature that tracks local nightclubs, where those who appear in their rankings might be found on nights out.

Jessica Minnis, a second year King’s student whose information was placed in the ‘Girl’s Leaderboard’, told Roar!: “It does make me wonder about safety, especially because this website apparently aims to let you meet people when you’re out. I’ve been getting a lot of very random people adding me on Facebook, which I guess is because of Ratemash.”

Ratemash was created in March 2013 and registered through proxy domain provider godaddy.com by CEO Michael Healy, who attended the King Edwards School in Witley and also founded the forum based website Someday I Want.

When asked during an online interview with Killer Startups earlier this year what it was that put Ratemash ahead of its competition, Healy responded: “Better than competition Tinder: Location based = creepy people, people you never[sic] seen before, people not in a social group (school, office etc) Bangwithfriends [sic].”

Susuana Antubam, Women’s Officer at the University of London Union, told the Huffington Post that “This is the creepiest thing I’ve seen since UniLad. The site uses public Facebook information to gain access to student data without permission.”

She went on to advise that “students who find out that they are featured on the website … [should] email the website and ask to be removed. I also advise students to check their security measures on their Facebook profiles.”

Antubam, alongside NUS Women’s Officer Kelley Temple, KCLSU Women’s Officer Rachel Williams and KCLSU President Sebastiaan Debrouwere, have taken the decision to write to both Michael Healy and Ollie Hall of Ratemash.

Within the letter it is requested that the page be removed since it is “deeply objectifying” and that it “fundamentally perpetuates a behaviour and attitude towards women that threatens their physical safety and welfare.”

They go on to argue that the ‘ranking’ system Ratemash operates on “violates the personal integrity of the students that are listed on it, as they did not consent to their private pictures being presented to a global audience.”

Speaking to Roar!, Rachel Williams added that “For women and non-binary students, this comes at a time where lad culture and the normalisation of sexism, misogyny and trans-misogyny are already rife within educational institutions,” and that “these sites act as stark reminders of the everyday sexism that women and non-binary students face on and offline.”

It must be pointed out that, at the time of writing, at least two female students had been placed within the ‘Guy’s Leaderboard’ rankings. Whether or not this was an intentionally concerted effort is difficult to ascertain, but both had received multiple votes to give them their placements.

While Roar! was unable to reach Ratemash for comment, you may address your concerns or issues with the site to michaelhealy@ratemash.com or olliehall@ratemash.com, or you can call their office on +44 7446773561.

 

 

Letter addressed to Ratemash:

 

FAO: Michael Healy, CEO and Ollie Hall, Regional Managing Partner (South UK), Ratemash

 

Dear Michael, Dear Ollie

RE: “Hottest Girls of All Time at King’s College London” page on your website

We are writing to you as elected officers and representatives of King’s College London, University of London and the National Union of Students. King’s College London is made up of over 25,000 students, close to 60% of which are women.

We’re deeply concerned about the page on your website on which users can ‘rate’ our women students, and have been contacted by a number of them to that effect (http://www.ratemash.com/kings/girlsleaderboard).  This type of ranking is deeply objectifying, and fundamentally perpetuates a behaviour and attitude towards women that threatens their physical safety and welfare.  Furthermore, the ‘ranking’ violates the personal integrity of the students that are listed on it, as they did not consent to their private pictures being presented in this way to a global audience. All of this makes this ranking completely unacceptable.

In the past weeks, we were contacted on several separate occasions by women and men students who are greatly distressed by the webpage. It is our understanding that other students’ unions in the UK have also been made aware of this, and share the concerns outlined above.

Therefore, we request that you take down this page by midnight on Sunday 24th November, and notify us to that end. Should this request go ignored, we will proceed with further action to protect the welfare of our students and will assist them in challenging this assault on their private lives. This action may include, but is not limited to, encouraging our students to take legal action.

 

Regards,

 

Rachel Williams, Womens’ Officer at King’s College London Students’ Union

Kelly Temple, Womens’ Officer at National Union of Students

Susuana Antubam, Womens’ Officer at University of London Union

Sebastiaan Debrouwere, President at King’s College London Students’ Union

3 Comments

  1. GuestKCL

    27 November, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    A fantastic letter to ratemash, well done guys! The next question is, will KCL student representatives be writing an equivalent letter on behalf of the male category as well? Because as it stands, we are giving the greenlight to the stealing of personal data, as long as it does not come off as sexist. This is a matter of personal information being taken without consent through affiliation with KCL on FB, not only an issue of sexism.

    • Sebastiaan Debrouwere

      28 November, 2013 at 12:05 pm

      Agreed. For the sake of clarity, we had complaints of both our men and women students, and are pursuing a taking down of both pages.

  2. Alice Louisa Malcolm

    31 March, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    I am horrified to say I know both of the people mentioned in the article, having attended the same school. I only hope they will come to realise the harm they are causing – I would love for this site to be removed.

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