The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Fizz: Anonymous town hall or ‘multi-level marketing scheme’?

The anonymous social media platform faces scrutiny and sparks privacy concerns
Claire Hamlet
Some students believe upvotes do not represent true student opinion, especially when posts receive hundreds of upvotes within hours.

Editor’s note: This article was updated Oct. 26 to clarify that Washington and Lee Fizz moderators don’t receive compensation.

Fizz has established itself as a familiar presence on campus. The anonymous social media platform claims to be used by 90% of W&L students, according to the app’s Instagram bio.

Fizz is a competitor to the similarly anonymous platform Yik Yak—and has far surpassed its popularity. Posts on Fizz receive hundreds of upvotes in short periods of time. Meanwhile, the most recent Yik Yak post at Washington and Lee was made three weeks ago.

But there’s more going on behind the scenes, Fizz moderators said.

Fizz has been launched at several college campuses across the United States. To access the app, users must provide a valid student email address, which excludes Virginia Military Institute cadets and Lexington residents. The app allows students to anonymously post confessions, memes, events and polls. Posts often include first and last names of students on campus, along with explicit references to sororities and fraternities and other campus organizations.

The shift from Yik Yak to Fizz can largely be attributed to Fizz’s focused campus initiatives and moderator system. Fizz has strategically recruited about 12-15 moderators with each campus launch. They’re responsible for flagging posts that break Fizz guidelines, voting on posts found by other moderators and, on some campuses, posting 30-40 times daily.

In return for their efforts, moderators at Loyola Chicago, for example, receive a monthly compensation of $500. Washington and Lee moderators, however, don’t get paid. Washington and Lee does have one campus manager, who runs the Fizz Instagram and gets some compensation, a moderator told the Phi after this article was published.

The same Washington and Lee moderator only learned after their training from Fizz that they would not be getting paid.

“Anything I can think of, I just Fizz it,” said a moderator from Loyola University Chicago in an interview. The Phi granted anonymity to moderators to protect their employment, as they signed non-disclosure agreements with the company.

A moderator from Washington and Lee said their role does not include generating Fizzes.

“If there is a role for that, I’m not privy to it,” said the Washington and Lee moderator. They said that moderating at the university is unpaid volunteer work, and content generation is another role altogether.

Two moderators must agree that a post violates community guidelines for the post to be removed.

“When we’re moderating, we’re looking for offensive content. Whether that be explicit bigotry or personal details that aren’t allowed. But in terms of shit-talking organizations, shit-talking professors, talking about drugs, alcohol, sex, all of that stuff is a-okay with Fizz,” said the Loyola moderator.

Moderators were recruited on LinkedIn or through an advertisement on the app itself. They attended a virtual training session to learn the Fizz guidelines and become content creators.

“In terms of the actual hiring process, they scheduled a 10-minute interview,” said the Loyola moderator. “It was like a 22-year-old at Northwestern that interviewed me… The staff in charge of me is a bunch of other college students.”

They said the Fizz business model was comparable to a “multi-level marketing scheme.”

Washington and Lee moderators may not get paid regularly, but there’s still ways for them to make money from the app.

“They offer to pay you $10 for everyone you send their way that they end up hiring,” said a Washington and Lee moderator. “They just do a massive outreach to schools and then incentivize telling your friends about it.”

Moderators said it was unclear how long they would receive this compensation.

Fizz doesn’t support advertisements, but TechCrunch reported in August that founders Teddy Solomon and Ashton Cofer have secured $41.5 million in investments.

Moderators said they do not take down Fizzes unless there is explicit bigotory or personal informtion included in the post. That means offensive comments remain on the platform, even if they are downvoted. (Claire Hamlet)

One moderator said, during the hiring process, they received conflicting information from staff at Fizz. Since starting work, they said they haven’t spoken to them again.

“It’s not well organized, and there doesn’t seem to be a cohesive corporate structure of any kind,” they said.

Fizz users remain anonymous for the moderators’ version of the app, moderators said.

On campuses where Fizz is just taking off, “most of the moderating job isn’t moderating,” the Loyola Chicago moderator said. “It’s having to post 30 to 40 times a day.”

They said their role in content generation emphasizes quantity over quality.

“That’s where most of their content is coming from,” said a moderator at Loyola University, where Fizz recently launched. “I don’t think many students actually use the app.”

Recent updates allow campus organizations to create verified Fizz accounts. Beyond anonymous posting, Fizz now more closely resembles X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Campus organizations, particularly fraternities, have been quick to adopt this feature, utilizing it to share information about upcoming parties and events.

This function proved problematic when a user created a “verified” account under the Ring-tum Phi’s name. This user posted a disparaging confessional, claiming to be a Phi member.

To create a verified Fizz account, a Fizz user needs only to submit one photo to prove they are a leader of the organization.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sidney Evans said she finds “the idea of anonymous posting extremely concerning and antithetical to the development of community.”

Students at Washington and Lee who use the app have expressed suspicions about Fizz. Some believe content to be AI-generated or ripped from other campuses.

Upvotes on Fizz also seem disproportionate to campus size. Students have suggested Fizz might triple or quadruple upvotes after they reach a certain number.

“I’m sure that stuff exists, but sometimes I produce that stuff. Sometimes it’s me that’s the bot posting,” said a moderator.

The Phi contacted six employees at Fizz, but they had either left the company or declined to respond.

“I just don’t like the app,” the Loyola moderator said. “It claims to foster community, but the reality is anonymous apps like this will inevitably just be a breeding ground for negativity. It feels like someone is taking advantage of college students to make money. I don’t feel like anyone at Fizz cares about increasing community on campus.”

Fizz has not been without its positive moments. Lizzy Nguyen, ‘25,  received an anonymous shoutout that inspired a movement: The Lizzy Award. This metaphorical accolade celebrates individuals deemed a “shining light” on campus. Other students took to Fizz to anonymously acknowledge fellow campus members.

Nguyen responded in a post on Fizz, expressing her gratitude.

“If you love somebody for whatever reason … please tell them,” she wrote.

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    Ben WaDec 14, 2023 at 3:26 pm

    How does Fizz make money?