Fake ASB account shares racist posts to followers

A fake UPA Associated Student Body (ASB) account was created on Oct. 1 and immediately requested to follow UPA students. The account, whose posts contained racial slurs and hateful messaging, had its first post taken down by Instagram a few hours after it was shared. The posts included language targeting people of Japanese descent and Black people. Their captions described the posts as “not racially motivated.” A screenshot of the account commenting the n-word on an unknown post has also been circulating around campus.

This is not the first time a fake ASB account has been created. In Nov. 2018, a fake ASB Instagram was created which posted about “mostly harmless stuff like wrong free dress days,” Director of Community Development and ASB Advisor Laura Gordon Reska said, but soon stopped posting. The account is still online. Reska hopes that the 2021 fake account will stop posting permanently as well. 

“I think it will die down, but I also think people could try to prove me wrong,” she said.

The fake ASB account took down their posts on Dec. 2, replacing their caption with “nvm we aren’t funny.” As of Dec. 16, the account has not posted anything new. (Screenshot by Vidya Achar.)

On Dec. 2, the 2021 fake ASB Instagram account took down their previous posts, changing their Instagram bio to “nvm we aren’t funny.” Though it is unclear whether the same person is responsible for both fake accounts, ASB Vice President and senior Ashritha Cheeyandira believes the two accounts were created by different people.

“The content between the two just seems entirely different,” Cheeyandira said. “[So] I don’t see how it could be the same person.”

ASB Public Relations Secretary and senior Romita Pakrasi was sent a follow request from the account on Oct. 1 and reported the fake account to ASB’s Discord group chat within an hour. 

“They obviously didn’t know what they were doing, sending ASB members invites,” Pakrasi said. “But they also could’ve been doing it deliberately to get a reaction.”  

ASB’s reaction was to share a post warning of a fake ASB account without including the Instagram handle of the fake account. 

“I think it was a fine decision,” Reska said. “We definitely don’t want to give [the fake account] more attention than necessary.”

ASB also reported the fake account multiple times on Oct. 1 but received no action from Instagram until Dec. 2, when the account was deleted.

The fake ASB account, on Oct. 1, reposted the notice of fake account originally posted on @upa.asb. (Screenshot by Vidya Achar.)

At its highest, five UPA students followed the fake ASB account, but it was unclear whether the students were aware it was a fake account. 

The fake account did not respond to Aquila’s request for comment.

Reska believes that the promotion of ASB’s Instagram on the TVs around campus may be responsible for instigating students to create fake accounts. Because she thought that the increased publicity had influenced students’ desire to frustrate ASB, Reska took the promotion slide off the campus TVs for a week. She says it is “impossible” to know if her methods made a difference in students’ actions. 

While no disciplinary action can be taken for simply creating a fake ASB account, the verbal harassment of students online could lead to suspension or expulsion for students who created the account. Reska and Director of Student Services Andrew Yau agree that the students must be held accountable but are undecided about what consequences should arise from this situation.

As of Dec. 16, the administration has not been able to find the student(s) behind the fake account but multiple students have talked to Reska about possible suspects. She has referred them to Yau but none have reached out to Yau. As a result, both administrators have stopped looking for the suspects.

Yau and Director of Special Programs Jean Mastrogiacomo tried to report the account as fake to Instagram but the form would not go through. Yau believes that this error may be caused by the real ASB Instagram account @upa.asb being an unverified account.

“How would Instagram know that one of them is fake and the other isn’t?” Yau said. 

Because of this ambiguity and the similarity between the Instagram handles of the fake and real ASB accounts, seminar coordinators have discussed possibly educating middle school students about ASB’s real Instagram account during the orientation process.

Aside from educating students, Yau does not believe there is anything administrators can do to stop the creation of a fake account in the future. Instead, they are focusing on “more pressing” issues like school spirit days and hoping the fake account will not post again.

“Don’t you have something better to do?” Reska asked.