SUs strike back at controversial facebook profiles

Students’ Unions (SUs) in some of Ireland’s biggest colleges have hit out at derogatory Facebook pages uploading pictures of students without their consent.

Posing using the names of their individual colleges, ‘Bird of the Day’-type profiles encourage users to rate students in an effort to name the university’s sexiest attendant, which SUs fear is impacting on students’ mental health.

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and University College Cork (UCC) have both played parts in removing some of the pages from Facebook, but similar profiles remain active.

“We are seeking the removal of these pages as it is a form of bullying and harassment,” GMITSU president, Sam O’Neill, told The College View. “The comments on these pages have at times been negative with one such student now getting messages on a daily basis from strangers making comments about her appearance.”

Anger from students lead to the ‘GMIT Bird of the Day’ page being removed from the social media site, but page variations like ‘GMIT Babe of the Day’ are still live and posting regularly to thousands of fans.

“We have had numerous students making complaints to us by email, phone, personal Facebook messages, via their class reps and by visiting us here in the office. It was a large number of complaints which meant that we had to do something, and we had to do it fast,” O’Neill added.

The University of Limerick (UL) criticised the pages after a related Bird of the Day profile came off Facebook, and urged students to be wary of their privacy.

ULSU president Emma Porter commented “while ULSU recognises that university life is not solely about academia, and that pages such as these are set-up with the intention of being a light-hearted bit of fun, we also acknowledge there comes a point wherein students must be aware of the potential negative consequences pages like this may have.”

UCC was the first university to condemn the pages after students expressed concern, but faced problems when Facebook said the pages did not violate any policies.

A combined effort from the SU and Clubs & Societies changed the company’s mind, which decided the page violated ‘community standards’.

The profiles have been criticised for being sexist, as they often focus on the colloquial, double-meaning for the word ‘bird’: female. Since concerns have been raised, some pages have opted to take the word at face value and focused on college wildlife.

The Facebook pages became increasingly popular over the last two months. Although some students submit photos of themselves, the majority of pictures come from other college-goers.

When asked whether the page creators would face any sanctions, GMITSU were unavailable to comment, as they are “unaware who created the pages”.

Mark Hogan

Image Credit: Annemarie Kelly

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