‘Bird of the Day’ Facebook pages encourage cyber-bullying, says Irish university

Larissa Kennelly 15 November 2013

Facebook pages set up in Ireland which feature daily uploads of pictures of female university students have been met with heavy criticism. The pages, which encourage other students to ‘rate’ or comment upon the attractiveness of the pictured female, have sparked complaints of cyber-bullying and concerns that such pages promote sexist attitudes.

In response to complaints over the content of one such page featuring their name, ‘UCC Bird of the Day’ University College Cork (UCC) contacted Facebook to ask that pages of this nature attempting to affiliate themselves with the university be taken down.

UCC stated on their Facebook page that they were “aware of several Facebook pages that claim to represent UCC and which in many cases contain hurtful or defamatory comments targeted at students and/or members of staff… we strongly condemn them.” The post also included information on support networks available to students that had been affected by content on the pages.

The University’s public condemnation of these pages has attracted national attention in Ireland as other universities began to follow suit, and request that these pages be shut down.

Tom McCarthy, Media and Public Relations Officer at UCC, told The Cambridge Student about the positive impact of the university’s decision: “Indeed it has encouraged others to do [the] same in various universities and it is great to see it has started a conversation around the topic, as this is an unfortunate reality, thankfully in the minority, of the digital world that is not going away.”

However, Dave Berry, UCC Student Welfare Officer, reported that students complaining about the content of pages such as ‘Bird of the Day’ were being subjected to further bullying and intimidation as a result. He said, “The worrying thing is that students who have talked up [sic] against the page, or even our own staff, have been ridiculed or bullied afterwards.”

The student union at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) – another  institution that has seen similar pages appear in its name – has also spoken out against the phenomenon. President of GMIT Student Union, Sam O’Neill, said, “These pages have on many occasions encouraged other students and the general public to make comments on individual student’s looks, clothes and their circumstances.

“The issue of cyber-bullying has once again raised its ugly head here, as these comments could potentially have a seriously negative affect on student’s mental health. We would urge students to think before they post, and to be more conscious of the privacy settings of their social media pages (thus preventing non-friends from sharing their content), and to report incidents to Facebook where they feel cyber bullying has occurred.”

Despite the serious criticism such pages have sparked, ‘Bird of the Day’ pages featuring the names of universities such as University of Limerick (UL) and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) are still in operation at the time of writing.

Image: Hugo Pardo Kuklinski