Over the weekend, upwards of twenty-five Facebook groups appeared, claiming to represent "White Student Unions" at schools around the U.S. and Canada, including UCLA, UC Berkeley, Oberlin College, and University of British Columbia.
Almost all of these groups are almost certainly fakes, and at least not officially associated with the schools at which they claim to exist.
Some of these groups have been already been officially debunked by the schools. NYU, for instance, told the Daily News that a group calling itself the NYU White Student Union does not exist and that "the Facebook page is using NYU’s logo illegally and without permission, and we have contacted Facebook to demand the NYU logo be removed.”
The groups began to appear after the University of Illinois took action to try to have a community page titled "Illini White Student Union" removed from Facebook. The page was reportedly shut down, though as of this writing a new page is still online and describes itself as "a community for white students to organize and discuss issues pertaining specifically to the white community. Devoted to education about BLM."
The copycat pages seem to begun to appear following the urging of Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi and white supremacist blog the Daily Stormer. On November 21 Anglin ended a post about University of Illinois's efforts to remove the page with the following exhortation:
So, guys. Here’s the plan:
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.
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.
Just fill it up with pro-White memes and “we’ve had enough of these people” rhetoric.
Extra points if you actually go to the school.
In the next two days tens more pages sprang up, including the UC Berkeley group, which appeared on November 21 and whose "declined to comment" for an article in The Daily Californian, that school's student newspaper, though a post on the group is now disputing this:
Meanwhile, on 4chan's /pol/ ("Politically Incorrect") message board, variations on the following message appeared in threads on November 22nd, calling for posters to create Facebook groups, fake or otherwise, to goad a response:
And as a post on Medium by an anonymous user going by "Bears for Equality" points out, nearly identical statements of purpose have been posted on groups at otherwise unrelated universities. A spreadsheet listing some of the groups was removed from Google Drive today because it was deemed in violation of the site's terms of service.
The incident follows the appearance of posters advertising white student unions at three universities in Toronto, which were taken down by the schools in question.
It's difficult to say with absolute certainty that the groups are directly connected to Anglin's article or the posts on 4chan. However, the preponderance of evidence sure makes it look like these pages are, for the most part, a hoax perpetrated by racist trolls.
Ethan Chiel is a reporter for Fusion, writing mostly about the internet and technology. You can (and should) email him at firstname.lastname@example.org