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No one is safe.

A Mira Costa High School, in Manhattan Beach, California, was closed today due to a threat that was seen on popular social media site Yik Yak, according to CBS News Los Angeles. The threat read, “If you go to Costa, you should watch out very close at school today”, This threat, read by a Mira Costa High School student, was reported, and was the cause for the school shut down, and the district-wide increase of school security. There was another ‘threat’ sent out later that day, that said, “‘nice try Costa, today was just a drill’. Both threats were anonymous, and untraceable. YikYak is an anonymous app that allows its users to post whatever they want (a status), and anyone within a 1.5 mile radius can read what they are saying – everything is public. It wasn’t stated if the second threat was also on Yik Yak, but it was presented on an anonymous site as well.

This article caught my eye because I live in this area, and have been spending so much time reading about the use and misuse of social media abroad that I’d forgotten that this can happen anywhere, let alone a few miles from where I grew up. It is hard to know if these threats were real, and if they will be acted upon, but I really learned something from hearing about this. Social media is a tool just like any other, and can be used in so many detrimental ways that it is hard to imagine that there are benefits to having outlets like these and websites this anonymous. It begs the question – is our privacy as humans so important to us that we can’t invade the privacy of those threatening others? I wonder if there are even laws set up to protect those who did this. Even if no one has gotten hurt and nothing dangerous ends up happening, many missed out on a day of school, and this could have been quite the hassle (which might have been the Yik Yak-er’s intent all along).

This isn’t the first case of threats being sent over Yik Yak. Apparently, this has been happening at Universities as well, an in an article written in a student newspaper, The Student Printz, published an article discussing the ongoing investigation into the second Yik Yak threat to Southern Miss in October. Police, in this case, were looking to get a subpoena for the records from Yik Yak to identify those behind the screen, but had yet to get any further information yet. The first threat had been investigated, and a suspect was found by tracing the  IP address used to post the threat. In Georgia as well, the same thing happened and a student was found responsible after investigation.

In any case, there are some positives. I hope that this had the same affect on those who were more closely involved. I hope this starts to make people see that social media is something that can definitely be used incorrectly, and to look into the different ways they are subjecting themselves to this kind of harassment. In an interesting thought, I wondered what would have happened if not enough people used Yik Yak, and the threat never gained any traction because no one saw it. Does this defeat the purpose? This goes along the same vein as the tree falling in the forest and whether it causes a sound (you know the saying). Without an audience, what is a threat? Does the act that the threat preceded lose its value if there isn’t fear and panic beforehand? Is fear and panic the attack itself? Why Yik Yak? Why anonymity? I will never stop wondering why social media became a place where people went to hide their identities and conceal their motives. How social is that, anyway?

featured image courtesy of Germán Poo-Caamaño

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