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Threatening Facebook message was a hoax: U of C officials

A threatening message posted to a student’s Facebook page — initially thought to be the work of hackers — was actually written by the student himself, University of Chicago officials said Monday.

“It became clear that nobody broke into the Facebook account in question, and that in fact the posting was not the anonymous threat against a student that it first appeared to be,” according to a statement from the university.

The message was posted Nov. 18 and contained racial slurs and threats of sexual violence.

It prompted university officials to initiate an investigation with the help of federal law enforcement agencies and third-party website providers to determine who was behind the post.

When university officials initially learned of the Facebook post, they sent a note to students to assure them the incident was being taken seriously.

School officials sent out a follow-up note Monday after it became clear the incident was a hoax. Officials also took the unusual step of posting a Frequently Asked Questions section to help students understand the incident.

“Once University officials knew that the nature of the incident was different than it first appeared, the University could not allow the inaccurate story to stand. That would not have served our community,” a portion of the FAQ read.

“The owner of the Facebook account claimed responsibility for the posting,” it stated.

According to a person with knowledge of the incident, it appears the student’s fake message was a misguided attempt to draw attention to the issues of race and sexual abuse.

Student activist Vincente Perez told the school’s newspaper, the Chicago Maroon: “Someone felt they had to show something extreme to get people to care. Think about that. This is not a justification. But think about what the weight of apathy can force people to do.”

A university spokesperson refused to comment on any disciplinary action that may be taken against the student who posted the Facebook message.

The Facebook incident comes after the Hyde Park campus has been roiled by debate over cultural and racial insensitivity in recent weeks.

The debate was stirred up after students who took offense to the Halloween costumes of classmates who dressed as “cholos” — a racially insensitive caricature of Latino men, often connoting criminality.