Cyber bullying finds new platform

Published 8:20 am Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal cautions parents about a new social media tool that has emerged in Washington Parish and is being used as a mechanism for bullying.

Yik Yak was launched in 2013 and works by combining the technologies of GPS and instant messages. Very simply, it is an anonymous bulletin board on which users can post comments to be read by anyone within a limited geographical area.

On its website, Yik Yak describes itself as “…an anonymous messaging app that allows users to create and view posts — called Yaks — within a 10-mile radius. Users can also expand the conversation by posting replies to existing Yaks.”

The misuse of Yik Yak to bully two students has already been reported in Washington Parish. The Sheriff’s Office has been notified and the WPSO Cyber Crimes Investigator is handling the complaints.

In early December, two University of Central Oklahoma students were arrested for posting Yik Yak threats to shoot up the university. Students from Drake University in Iowa were arrested in September for similar threats. Other incidents have occurred at the University of Southern Mississippi, Penn State University, the University of Georgia and other schools, which resulted in the arrests of students making the threats. In January, a 16-year old high school student in Oxford, Ala., was arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat on Yik Yak.

“Since I took office, we have developed a mechanism for investigating crimes involving all social media, including the Internet,” Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal said. “Our Cyber Crimes Investigator has been certified in Mobile Forensics, Computer Forensics and Cyber Investigations. He provides a valuable service to parents, local schools and law enforcement throughout the parish.”

Seal said parents should know what their children are doing on computers.

“I strongly encourage parents to closely monitor their children’s use of all social media,” Seal added. “While social media itself is not bad, the misuse of social media as a tool to threaten, bully or disseminate false information can be a criminal act. We will aggressively go after anyone making social media threats to any individual, group, school or school function.”

Seal said any parent, teacher or other person who knows of cyber bullying or threats on any form of social media is asked to report the matter to the Sheriff’s Office at 985-839-3434.