On Tuesday March 1, a message was posted on Yik Yak threatening the campus of SUNY New Paltz. The message implied that on Thursday March 3, the anonymous user was planning to bring and use a weapon on campus to harm the campus community. A statement released by the University Police Department (UPD) stated that the subject had been identified and taken into custody. In addition, the person is suspended from SUNY New Paltz, is not allowed on campus and “faces felony criminal charges.”
The name of the student has not been released at time of writing.
According to users on Yik Yak, the post read “3/3/22 save the date! School [water gun emoji].” The post was taken down on Yik Yak, but not before some users screenshotted the post and sent it to UPD. The department responded by saying they were looking into and dealing with the situation.
Some students on the app expressed concern about the school’s lack of response to this threat, stating how they were looking for the school to release a statement about the situation. Someone wrote, “if New Paltz doesn’t say anything about the threat by tomorrow, I’m going home.”
One user expressed their desire for the school to release a statement and felt if the school did not release a statement “I’ll be worried it’s not being taken as seriously as it should.”
On Wednesday, an email was sent out from the school to all users on behalf of the police department stating that the culprit had been caught and was being held accountable for their actions. The email also stated “UPD determined that the threat was not credible.”
Yik Yak is an anonymous social media application where users can write posts containing up to 200 characters and have them published for anyone within a five-mile radius to see. Users can also comment, upvote or downvote the content they see — a post with a lot of comments and upvotes means more people will see it.
Users were swift to point out that Yik Yak is not as anonymous as people believe it is. One user points out that in order to have a Yik Yak account, users must verify their phone number — thus linking them to their account online.
“Did none of you learn internet safety?,” one user asked. “Everything you post can be traced back if they care enough to try.”
This is not the first time Yik Yak has dealt with threats like this. In 2017, The New York Times released an article about the app and how it was a breeding ground for body-shaming, cyber-bullying, threats of gun violence, murder, racism and sexual harassment. These factors led many schools to ban the app entirely, which led to its shut down in 2017.
The rights to Yik Yak were bought in early 2021 by two anonymous owners. In late 2021, the app made a comeback. In a tweet, the company announced that it was back after its four-year hiatus from the app store and its plan to rid the app of users who created the problems it had faced in the past.
“If you see someone bullying another person or making a threat, please immediately downvote and report the message. Message posts (yaks) that reach -5 total upvote points are instantly removed from the feed. When you report a post, our team reviews it as soon as possible and takes action when necessary,” read an announcement released by the company.
It is unclear how long the post was up before it was removed from the feed.
“We thank those in our community who brought this threat to our attention,” said the statement by UPD to the campus. “We want the community to know that we take such threats seriously and take appropriate action in such instances to protect our community.”