Yesterday, Breitbart Tech published a story claiming to debunk earlier reports that “white student union” pages that had popped up on Facebook over the weekend were a hoax. “People held out to talk to Breitbart because we knew that they are a respectable organization that would protect the privacy of the individuals involved,” the administrator of the NYU page wrote to me in a Facebook message.
The Breitbart reporter, Allum Bokhari (@Libertarianblue on Twitter.com), claimed to have verified the identities of the administrators running the white student union pages associated with the University of British Columbia, the University of California-Santa Barbara, and University of California-Santa Cruz.
Naively, perhaps, I’ve held out hope that I might still be able to figure out who is running the page associated with NYU—regardless of whether it was actually a student. After the Breitbart piece was published, the admin messaged me to say that I ought to issue a correction on my earlier post: that the page isn’t a hoax. If I did, the admin wrote, then I might have a shot at attending an IRL meeting of the Union of White NYU Students:
Lol. Anyway, as tempting as the offer was, I held onto my journalistic skepticism: no shade to Bokhari, but if these pages were, in fact, a hoax perpetrated by 4chan and 8chan trolls, it’s possible that he might have gotten hoodwinked himself.
When I expressed my wariness about the Breitbart piece to the anonymous admin, he (or she!) was surprised. “What don’t you trust?” he (or she!!!) asked. “You think they are lying?”
Then, the admin sent a photograph of what appears to be a current NYU student ID card—black boxes covering the name and photograph—held in front of what he described as the NYU student portal. The browser appeared to be logged in.
“You can’t publish this,” the admin wrote. “If you do, it will be considered a serious breach of faith and you will not be contacted again.” But this does not actually verify or disprove anything at all: some NYU kid could have put that photo on /b/ for trolls to use to further the hoax.
(Also, they posted the same photograph in a status update today? I’ve reached out to the Breitbart reporter to ask whether any of the admins at the pages he claimed to have verified shared the same photo with him—will update if I hear back.)
I wrote that I wasn’t satisfied with a redacted student ID as verification. “Well,” the admin replied, “I don’t have anything to prove to you frankly. And there is simly no way that I am going to meet someone that writes for gawker in person until you show good faith.”
Access journalism, man.