The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

What’s Fizzin’? The Bubblings Beneath the New Social Media App On Campus

Grace Thomas

Sarah didn’t initially notice anything strange about the contract she was about to sign for her new job with the college social media app Fizz. Her responsibilities and salary seemed fairly straightforward. Then, something jumped out at her: the contract, she claims, included the peculiar stipulation that she would not be allowed to add Fizz to her work experience on LinkedIn.

Sarah – who is being referred to by a pseudonym – said that Fizz’s insistence that she not publicize her employment was just one of many things that concerned her about the new social media app. 

Founded in 2021 by two Stanford students who dropped out to run the app full time, Fizz aims to be an anonymous town square for college students to interact with peers from their own school. It’s similar to Blind Tiger, but with a few added features like the ability to share images and moderation of posts by paid student employees. 

The Bates Student spoke to three students who were hired by Fizz to moderate the Bates forum about their employment experience. The students all stated they signed non-disclosure agreements with Fizz, and as such The Student will refer to them with pseudonyms.

At the end of last academic year, representatives of Fizz reached out to Bates students looking for people to apply to moderate posts on the Bates forum.

Students who began moderator training reported feeling uncomfortable with the ethics of some of Fizz’s business practices, such as encouraging moderators to pretend to be multiple students across their school campus.

Sam – who is referred to by a pseudonym – said his work with Fizz started like most other jobs.

“They contacted me through LinkedIn about an opportunity to make $500 a month working for a social media company,” said Sam. “It seemed like easy work and definitely looked good on a resume, so I responded.” 

The gig was to moderate Bates’s portion of the site, regulating what posts can be shown on the app to other students. 

“I liked the idea at first; it seemed like Blind Tiger, but with moderation, which I feel like would do it some good,” Sam said. 

Fizz and Blind Tiger both have received criticism for creating opportunities to spread hate online. Sam followed up to clarify some of the job responsibilities. 

“We need our moderators to post 30 times a day,” a marketing analyst from Fizz told him. 

Sam said that he was concerned by the time commitment and inflexibility in Fizz’s policy. “We were told if we didn’t hit 30 every single day, we just wouldn’t get paid at all for that month,” he claims.

The notice sent to students like Alex who were called “student ambassadors” to Fizz on campus. These were the instructions they were given before an advertising event, where ambassadors handed out free donuts to students who made accounts with the app. Photo edited to maintain anonymity.

Sarah seconds Sam’s frustration, “If you did the math for how long that would take, based on their criteria, you were essentially getting paid less than minimum wage.”

Later in the moderator training session the students attended, they were encouraged to employ a technique that Fizz representatives referred to as “crush posting.” 

“It was this really touchy part of the training where they made a recommendation that you post about other people that you knew, or knew in passing … like, ‘Hey, I have a massive crush on XYZ,’ or ‘They do ABC and it’s so cute,’” Sarah recounted.

According to the moderators, the slideshow that Fizz employees presented in the moderator training had put crush posting on a slide titled “posting suggestions” for moderators trying to meet their daily quota. 

“It felt a little bit like how middle school bullies pretend to crush on people just to make fun of them,” Sarah said. 

Sam added, “[It was] like asking someone out as a joke. It just seemed so skeevy to me that they wanted me to impersonate someone else and call them out by name.”

Sarah was encouraged to model her posts on graphic and sexual examples. “They gave us examples of posts we were supposed to make versus things we should take down, and in both cases, they were of a really gross sexual nature,” Sarah said. Screenshots were presented to The Student of these ‘example’ posts, which all were of explicit sexual nature. 

A slide shown during the Fizz moderator employee training, discussing what posts needed to be removed and what posts could be left up. In the lower corner, it is added that replies to posts are up to moderator discretion as to whether they should be removed. Note, the name of the presenter has been blurred out.

Sarah concluded her recollection of the moderator training with “If that was how the first meeting went, I didn’t want to know how the second one would go, and the third one. I really did not want to find out.” 

Most concerning to the students was Fizz’s encouragement of moderators to make posts appearing to be from various different people. 

Sam believes this is in part to present the illusion of traffic on the platform. “I’d honestly be surprised if the people who use the app aren’t just the ones getting paid to post,” he said.

In a statement to The Student, a Fizz representative said that moderators are encouraged to “empathize with the experiences of others.”

Concerned students later contacted one of the community managers mentioned in the training. In private text messages reviewed by The Student, the Fizz manager encouraged crush posting as a way to grow an inclusive community and spread positivity.

The student then responded by asking if this also meant pretending to be different students each time. The reply they received was a resounding yes, the Fizz manager suggested that moderators vary their personalities, and that Sam should be creative with his. 

Fizz’s posted community guidelines read, “Do not impersonate other students in your school.”

The section on Fizz’s website, under their Community Guidelines. This section detailing Misinformation specifically says users should not pretend to be someone else on the app.

When inquiring about this wording in the community guidelines, a student moderator said: “Fizz administrators told me that they didn’t know where [the claims about using other students’ personalities on the app] came from, and that wherever it did, I must have been misinformed.” He was then directed to the community manager for further questions; he reached out, but never received a response. 

Fizz denied Sam’s and Sarah’s allegations in their statement to The Student and reiterated their posted policy banning impersonation.

“Fizz does not encourage moderators to impersonate other students. Fizz encourages moderators to empathize with the experiences of others as we deem this essential to high-quality moderation,” according to Abby Campbell on behalf of Fizz in an email to The Student.

Alex, who is being referred to with a pseudonym, spent a morning early last semester distributing flyers under students’ doors for Fizz. When he was paid for this, Alex alleged that he was sent his money through a cash-transfer app, from which taxes were not collected. 

According to Alex, the transaction on the cash-transfer app said “on behalf of” and then a name he didn’t recognize. When asked if taxes were collected on the payment he received, Alex said he wasn’t sure. 

When asked to comment on the payment methods used to compensate employees, a Fizz representative said that the company “goes to extraordinary lengths to ensure payments are compliant with United States and state tax regulations.” They added that W-9 information is collected and 1099s are submitted at the end of the tax season by Fizz. 

The allegations from Alex, Sarah and Sam are just one more chapter in a long string of grievances leveraged towards Fizz. A 2022 Stanford Daily article detailed the allegations of three Stanford students who found concerning cybersecurity vulnerabilities in Fizz’s (then known as Buzz) software, including the ability for “anyone” to query the database, access sensitive user data including phone numbers and emails and edit essentially the entire database. After reporting these vulnerabilities to Fizz, the students received a letter from Fizz’s lawyers that threatened, among other things, criminal charges. Fizz says it has updated its security since. Other student newspapers, including the Middlebury Campus and the Rice Thresher, have detailed similar student concerns about ethics and campus culture.

Since The Student conducted its original research and investigation in September, many Fizz employees mentioned in this article have since been let go from the company. The Student had reached out to those involved with Fizz at Bates, but they all declined to comment due to non-disclosure agreements. 

When The Student contacted Fizz in October after its original investigation, Fizz denied all accusations of wrongdoing, including encouraging impersonation, and told The Student that “these allegations are false.” Before publishing this article, The Student asked for Fizz to comment on the claims appearing in this article, but they declined to respond. 

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About the Contributor
Max Olson
Max Olson, Assistant News Editor
Max is a Junior from Beverly MA. He is a double major in English and Philosophy. In his free time, you can find Max around the table with his friends at the Discordians Board Game Club or accruing overdraft fees of movies at the library.
Max has been writing for The Student since freshman year, covering primarily Arts and Leisure. He is also an officer of the Students with Disabilities Club and a frequent of the Bates Robinson Players.
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