A university has condemned cyberbullying after photographs of students, some in comprising and vulnerable situations, were published on Facebook pages.
University College Cork said it has received several complaints from students who were subjected to online abuse and bullying after their photos were taken and published on these pages, which claim to represent the college, without their consent.
UCC also said some of the pages have contained hurtful and at times, defamatory comments aimed at students and some college staff.
The administrators of these pages encourage students to send photographs to them for publication.
One page picks a “UCC Bird of the Day” and publishes photographs of female students.
Another page has published photographs of a student vomiting in a toilet, and of another unconscious student sprawled naked on a couch.
College authorities and UCC Students’ Union have now issued a joint statement condemning the pages and offering advice to students on how they can respond if they’ve been affected by the content.
“Beyond the very real psychological damage these pages can do, they also breach the UCC Social Media Policy and related policies and we strongly condemn them,” the statement said.
“Unfortunately, these pages often tend to be set-up by anonymous accounts, but where possible, we take action when a person or persons is identifiable and falls within the remit of the policies.”
They urged people to use the “report” feature on the Facebook pages, a feature which is accessible by clicking the cog-like symbol to the right of the page name, to reveal a drop-down menu.
Reporting individual posts is also possible and often tends to be more effective because a large number of reports can often lead to these pages being shut down.
“This is a phenomenon affecting a lot of third-level institutions but we decided to be proactive in responding to it,” a college spokesman said.
“There have been some tragic cases of cyberbullying over the last year. Some postings may be put up for fun — the whole point of social media is fun — it’s another form of expression.
“But it may not always be perceived that way by the person at the receiving end.
“The fact is that some of what has been posted on these pages is unacceptable.”
Dave Berry, the students’ union welfare office, said that college is not only a place for academic achievement, it is also a place for fun and personal development.
“We don’t want to stop people having fun,” he said.
“But these so-called funny jokes can result in people being defamed, their reputations being affected, and can result in serious mental health issues. We have seen tragic examples over the last two or three years of how cyberbullying can affect young people.”
UCC Student Counselling can be contacted on email@example.com or 021 4903565 or www.ucc.ie/studentcounselling.
You can also contact the Samaritans on 1850 60 90 90, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
* You can view UCC’s social media policy at www.ucc.ie/en/dewg/policies
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