What the Fizz?: Exclusive Foghorn Q&A with a Fizz moderator

For the past year, many USF students have been glued to their screens, posting away on Fizz, an anonymous college campus social media app. When users log in with a “@dons.usfca.edu” email address, they are taken to a USF specific Fizz page. While many students may not be aware of Fizz, or only know of it tangentially, approximately two thousand people, heavily concentrated among first and second-year students, are active weekly users. 

The app has become an extension of campus life. Students express their opinions, buy and sell items on the shop. Campus organizations, including the Foghorn, use it to communicate with the student body.

However, not everything posted on the app is healthy commentary. Though the app has content guidelines, it’s up to a handful of anonymous USF student volunteers to enforce them. 

The Foghorn spoke with a sophomore advertising major who doubles as a Fizz moderator. For their safety, the Foghorn has granted this moderator anonymity and they will be referred to by the pseudonym “M.”

How did you get involved with Fizz?

“Last year, when Fizz first came out…they were sending a lot of emails.” M said they had initially been under the impression that the moderator position would be paid, which turned out to be untrue. But that didn’t stop them from pursuing the role. On the first day the app was introduced to USF, “I was already looking at the moderator stuff and starting the training.” By May 2023, they began moderating.

When asked how much time they spend on content regulation, the moderator said the job isn’t that time-consuming. “When I see stuff that’s bad that people are reporting, stuff that’s either incredibly offensive, or targeting minorities — especially in this climate with everything that’s going on in Palestine, real sensitive stuff, I take a look at that. And I try to keep active because people say insane stuff, especially when it comes down to people doxxing each other on the platform, which happens a lot.” [Explain doxxing]

How often does doxxing happen on Fizz? Aside from that, I know you have to police offensive content. Can you give me some examples of how often that happens and what kind of stuff you’re seeing?

“Pretty often… Sexuality is always a big thing…The most recent thing was a poll debating whether or not it was offensive to call queer people, ‘the gays.’ …And then someone reFizzed that. And they said, ‘Well, is it offensive to call black people, ‘the blacks?’’ And then that really blew up. And you get your one or two [trolls] who say like, monkey, the N-word, stuff like that. And then there were people who are just like, ignorant, and just spewing like, bulls—t for fun. There’s just so, so much.”

“That’s just the most recent thing. There are just times where people will just post a slur. And then it gets reported immediately. And people take it down. But it’s like… these are our peers. Everyone who’s on this platform is USF students. So who is doing this?”

Do you feel that moderating on Fizz takes a toll on your psyche?

“I would say so … because the fact that stuff happens so often… whether it comes to sexual assault …or racial stuff, stuff when it comes to sexuality. So much hate is being spewed on the platform. And there’s no way it’s like just one person or a couple of people. This has to be like hundreds of students on this campus that are creating this atmosphere and this behavior. Because not only are there people who are posting stuff, but there are people who are upvoting it. …So it’s just really insane to think about like, who on this campus is actually safe?”

So when something gets reported on Fizz, what’s the process for that?

When a post is reported, “That post gets flagged to all moderators… No posts are just automatically taken down by any moderator,” said M.

“All of the moderators get a notification of a new report type. And the different report types are like, illegal substances, sexual harassment, you know, the typical reports that you have on a social media platform. And then it shows you the post… As soon as a post gets reported, it gets hidden from the community.” Then multiple moderators vote on whether the post should stay up. 

M said “Sometimes if it’s [a post] that toes the line, you can give context to why it would be an offensive thing. So it’s a really holistic process. I really like it because I mean, it gives you a chance to explain if something might not seem offensive to somebody else, you get a chance to show why it might be and also like, nobody has the complete power to take down a whole post themselves.”

What do you think of the overall Fizz community at USF? Obviously, you’ve seen some of the worst parts of Fizz. But do you still think that it’s a beneficial thing to the community?

“Fizz is really dope, because it goes to any campus and it makes them their personal social media platform… and I like that. And I liked the anonymous feature, because it lets people express who they are without feeling as much pressure. But it also opens up that space for [trolls]… And nobody’s going to be able to avoid that. So even despite the annoyances, I feel like… this moderator program kind of fills in those gaps.”

What would you say is the best thing that you’ve seen on Fizz?

“Honestly, people with their pets… I think that brings so much joy to the campus… It’s nice to have something that makes you smile just a little bit.”

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