According to this story by University Affairs deputy editor Léo Charbonneau, all of those “Class of…” groups on Facebook, where students can network, plan activities and share opinions, might not all be legit.
Most universities in Canada have these types of groups. For example, a student starting at Carleton University next fall might want to join the “Carleton University Class of 2014” before they actually step foot on campus.
But this year, Charbonneau says there have been several cases where these groups, purportedly representing students from a particular university, have been found out as fakes. In the U.S., blogger Brad Ward warned faculty at other universities that Facebook groups were being appropriated by people who had never attended, and were not set to attend, the schools.
“Think of it…posing as an incoming student. Think of the data collection,” wrote Ward. “The opportunities down the road to push affiliate links. The opportunity to appear to be an ‘Admin’ of Your School Class of 2013. The chance to message alumni down the road. The list of possibilities goes on and on and on.”
The Canadian connection to the story beings with Matthew Melnyk, the electronic outreach liaison officer at Brock University’s recruitment and liaison office. Last February, according to Charbonneau, he discovered a Facebook group pretending to represent Brock students. That group was linked to another Facebook group called “Grads of 2009 (Canada)” that had other links to fake “Class of…” websites at more than a dozen Canadian universities.
Melnyk contacted Facebook administrators, and was able to persuade them to take the Brock scam site down, citing copyright infringement on the group’s main logo. But when he met Ward on the Brock University campus, using Ward’s contacts at the social networking site, was able to convince Facebook administration to bring the whole fake Canadian network of sites down.