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Union Statement - Anonymous Social Media Platforms

The University of York Students’ Union (YUSU) condemns the racism and harassment filled posts on anonymous social media platforms, including Yorfess1 (facebook), Yorkmemes and Hez East Fess. Pages, including these, have abused and bullied students, student groups and staff members alike. The pages create a palpable hostility at our University, they have failed to provoke any meaningful debate or discourse and have instead perpetuated hate through our University community. This is unacceptable. 

We do recognize that these platforms can be valuable to students and we see examples of confession pages at other institutions that are run responsibly and effectively. Unfortunately, the pages mentioned are unable to moderate their content in anything close to an acceptable manner, therefore have become unacceptable themselves.

In truth, we have sometimes been hesitant to address these issues in such a public manner, for fear of further harassment, having faced personal abuse from these pages in the past. We know we are not alone in feeling this. When individuals have spoken out, they have faced personal attacks from these pages or been blocked entirely. This seems hypocritical for pages who claim not to filter their content or comments to ‘promote free speech’. We will not stand for the abuse of our student group leaders, our students, our officers or any staff in the York community. Our students deserve better than to live in fear of harassment from these pages.

We welcome any students who approach us with issues or ideas, but posting hateful submissions on these pages under the pretence of accountability achieves nothing other than to crystallize hate. If you want to see change within YUSU and the University, our SUggestions site allows students to easily submit ideas and policy proposals, and engage in debates in a productive way with clear outcomes. 

We have worked hard behind the scenes to do whatever we can to reduce the damage these pages cause for the community at York. Whilst acknowledging there is more to be done, we thought we should share with you the work our team have done regarding anonymous social media platforms this year: 

  • Pressuring the University to take action, through meeting with and emailing senior staff, which resulted in:

    • Publishing a joint statement on respect. 4th February. 

    • Letters sent to the pages, reminding them they are responsible for the content of the pages. 6th February.

    • Emails sent to all students on “Reporting unacceptable behaviour” from Wayne Campbell, Academic Registrar. 19th February. 

  • Used the weekly Sabbs in Short email (#BeKind, 26.02.2019),  to ask that students reconsider both submitting and posting hateful comments and re-evaluate how they use their online presence.

  • Providing continued advice and support for students who have been harassed by these pages.

  • Pressured the University to escalate the situation to involve the police. 

    • They contacted Facebook with no results.

    • They say they are restricted in what they are legally able to do, as they cannot identify the admins or posters - that's why if you know who they are and want to tackle this issue, report it.

We pledge to call out racism and hate speech wherever we see it. We ask that you do the same so that we can take a step towards a York community where all students feel safe. Despite us continuing to raise this issue to the University, they have taken very little action. 

This is why it’s extremely important for you to report any posts you see that are abusive, or submit any information you have regarding the students who are involved in these pages. We cannot give these pages a platform to divide our community when unity is more important than ever.