Threatening Yik Yak post lands student behind bars

Student arrest proves UIS takes social media seriously

John Kurecki , Features Reporter

ANGEL NEWMANUIS students should take care with what they post on social media; after a recent arrest related to a post on the surging social media application Yik Yak, it is clear that repercussions from the university or from police are very possible.

On Dec. 14, Angel Newman – a UIS student – was arrested because of accusations of posting threatening posts on Yik Yak.

The State Journal-Register reported that Newman “implied she had a gun in the messages but did not indicate she wanted to shoot anyone.”

The following morning UIS Police Chief Don Mitchell sent out an email to all employees and students, stating, “Late Saturday night, two threatening statements were posted on Yik Yak, an ‘anonymous’ social media platform.”

“UIS Police were notified by concerned students and immediately began working with other law enforcement agencies to identify the source of the comments,” Mitchell continued. “The individual was located [and arrested]…No threat to our campus was identified.”

According to Sangamon County Circuit Clerk records, Newman faces one count of disorderly conduct, which is classified as a criminal felony. Newman has pleaded not guilty.

Sangamon County Circuit Clerk records also state that on Dec. 15 Newman was released from Sangamon County Sherriff custody after posting $10,000 bail. As a part of posting bail, Newman was instructed to not have access to social media, including Yik Yak, and to not possess a firearm.

Newman’s next scheduled court appearance is on Feb. 29 at 9:30 a.m. at the Sangamon County Court Complex.

Newman was contacted for an interview request, however the request was not granted.

This is not the first incident regarding Yik Yak on the UIS campus; UIS Capital Scholars Honors Program Director Marc Klingshirn contacted all honors students via e-mail twice, once in October 2014 and again in February 2015, expressing his disapproval of comments left on Yik Yak.

On Jan. 20, Yik Yak’s new guidelines for law enforcement went into effect, which should dispel any illusions that users are anonymous on the platform. Yik Yak claims to collect various data, including date and time of interaction, IP address, GPS coordinates, and a unique identifier for the device which accessed the application.

Yik Yak will release various forms of information to law enforcement in the case of an emergency, a valid subpoena, a court order, or a search warrant.

Relevant in this case is the emergency provisions, wherein Yik Yak claims, “Yik Yak may disclose user account information to law enforcement – without a subpoena, court order, or search warrant – in response to a valid emergency when we believe that doing so is necessary to prevent death or serious physical harm to someone…Yik Yak evaluates emergency requests on a case-by-case basis.”

When disclosing information in an emergency, Yik Yak reserves discretion in what can be disclosed. The policy reads, “This may include a user’s IP address, GPS coordinates, message timestamps, telephone number, user-agent string, and/or the contents of other messages from the user’s posting history.”

Elsewhere on the website, Yik Yak states that they will cooperate with local authorities if there is a post that threatens people.

Yik Yak is also aware of individuals bullying others via the app, and proclaims, “[w]e take bullying very seriously and are constantly working on eliminating it.”

Upon seeing an offensive post, users are asked to take a screenshot and report the post, which will then be reviewed by the Yik Yak support team. Users found to be in violation of the platform’s policies can be suspended.

UIS Director of Public Relations Derek Schnapp stated that while there is no standing university policy on social media, posts can be a violation of the student disciplinary code, which forbids “violence, the threat of violence, harassment, or intimidation directed against another person or persons.”

Violation of the student disciplinary code can result in consequences ranging from a warning to dismissal from the campus.