While many USF students use Yik Yak to inform others of events on campus, post jokes and anonymously complain about teachers, the app was recently used for a much more concerning purpose.
A user of the anonymous posting social media app made a “vague and nonspecific threat to USF” through a Yik Yak post Sunday, according to a University Police (UP) community notification shared on UP’s Facebook page and later emailed to USF students and faculty.
The report stated authorities were notified of the post at 10 p.m. Sunday, and UP Assistant Chief Chris Daniel said by the time UP was aware, the post had already been removed. Daniel said an investigation into who created the post is ongoing, and UP is communicating with Yik Yak to identify the original poster.
“I can’t reveal a lot of information on how the investigation is going just yet, but I can tell you that Yik Yak has been very cooperative and responsive to our needs, and they seem to be as interested in resolving this as we are,” Daniel said.
Though Daniel said the threat was non-specific, he said UP took the threat very seriously and was concerned USF could be at risk due to the way Yik Yak posts are generated. The app shares posts with other users who are in the same geographical boundary, which could be anything from a concert to a college campus.
Because USF students could see the threatening post, the person responsible was likely close by. As mentioned in the community report, UP increased police visibility on campus by positioning additional officers around USF.
Daniel said it is too early to speculate any legal charges the suspect could be facing once identified, as the context of the post and its intentions needs to be further evaluated.
“We need to have a better understanding of the content of … what was put on Yik Yak. Through conversation of the person of interest, we would need to determine what was going through their head and their intent behind it,” he said. “Right now it would be premature to say if we have any crime at all or if we have a very stringent crime.”
Daniel said while anyone can use the Internet and social media apps like Yik Yak to anonymously say whatever they like, it’s UP’s responsibility to investigate all potential threats against USF. He said the social media community also has an obligation to monitor itself and alert UP of posts made with potentially malicious intent.
“I think people did the right thing in this situation — they saw this post come up, it was of concern, and they brought it to our attention,” he said. “To ignore something like this could have tragic consequences.”