White student union Facebook groups on Canadian campuses appear to be a hoax
Similar Facebook groups have popped up on several American campuses
At least five Canadian universities have been targeted in what appears to be a series of fake Facebook groups claiming to represent white student unions.
Officials at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Western University in London, Ont., and McMaster in Hamilton have all denied these Facebook groups have official standing on campus or are endorsed by the administrations. Additional groups appear to have been started at the University of Victoria and University of Toronto.
Similar Facebook pages appearing to be affiliated with several American schools contain near identical wording about the purported groups.
"Students of the European diaspora on college campuses face unique and immediate challenges that are ignored or even actively denied in today's cultural climate," says a Facebook post on the UBC White Student Union page.
"We unapologetically provide a safe space for white students to air their true feelings about the future of our nation, discuss and reflect on the lessons laid down for us by our great writers, philosophers and artists"
These pages have sprung up in the midst of heightened racial tensions on American college campuses such as the University of Missouri.
The UBC Facebook page had garnered more than 500 likes as of 4 p.m. PT on Tuesday. Messages sent to the page's owner were not immediately returned.
The university said it was made aware of the Facebook group by several members of the UBC community on Monday.
"This is not a UBC operated or sanctioned page, nor is it an organization recognized by or affiliated with UBC," said Sara-Jane Finlay, the university's associate vice-president of equity and inclusion.
"UBC is not responsible for the content on this page and does not endorse its content. Given the confusion caused by the use of UBC trademarks on this page, UBC will be requesting that this organization cease using UBC's trademarks."
On Monday, the Facebook page had UBC's logo as its profile photo, but this was changed later to simply "UBC WSU."
Facebook told CBC that while it does not support the group's position, the page does not violate its community standards. It can take down Facebook groups that have been determined to be a hoax if the page's administrator has set up a fake or spam account, but that does not appear to be the case in the UBC White Student Union page.
However, several seemingly affiliated Facebook groups with U.S. campuses have been determined to be hoaxes and have been taken down, including one at NYU.
Link to white supremacist site
A widely shared post on the website Medium points out these Facebook pages appear to be in response to a call to action on the white supremacist site the Daily Stormer.
"Make more of these White Student Union pages on Facebook for various universities. You don't have to go there. Make one for Dartmouth, Princeton, etc.," said the site's founder Andrew Anglin in a Nov. 21 post. "Go, do it now. If they won't let it on Facebook, put it on Tumblr or Wordpress or whatever. Get it up, then forward links to the local media."
Alan Dutton, the national director of the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society, said these Facebook groups were concerning.
"It makes no difference if the FB pages are a hoax or have a malicious intent. The result is the same and that is it further poisons campuses and sets up one group against the other," he said in an email.