I’m all in for freedom of speech and a right to our personal privacy. Back off government – we the people are YOUR employers. I might even be so bold as to let you know that I am a fan of Edward Snowden, whom I consider an American patriot.
But my ideology to steadfastly fight for our freedoms and inalienable rights may have suffered some pause today. Such was the case today when I received this text from my 17-year old daughter.
‘Dad, someone made a threat against our school. We’ve been in lockdown for the last hour. I’m OK.’
A lockdown? Here in Manhattan Beach? This is one of the safest school districts in all of California. What’s going on?
Well it seems that someone got the idea to use the social media program Yik Yak to post a threat against Mira Costa High School. The post read, ‘If you go to Costa [Mira Costa High School] you should watch out very closely at school today.’ The digital post was obviously perceived as a threat either against the school, its faculty, the kids or perhaps all of the above.
Police arrived quickly and thereafter secured the school. The response from the school and law enforcement was both professional and appropriate. Coming home for dinner, I chalked it up to some frustrated pimple-faced teenage boy, who might be taking out some of his adolescent frustrations. But just after dinner, a smug second text was posted.
‘Nice try Costa, today was just a drill.’ Soon after, our High School principle, after consulting with the Manhattan Beach Police Department, decided to close school for tomorrow. Yik Yak’s anonymity platform allowing for more fear, once again.
For the uninitiated, Yik Yak is a social media app that allows users to post comments anonymously. Its similar to Twitter, but you don’t need to put in any information to register and use it. The kicker is that only people within a 5-mile radius can see each others’ tweets. Nice to know the creep or ‘creepette’ (to be fair) that wrote this is close to our kids and school. Makes the threat all that more believable.
Yik Yak has been extremely popular on college campuses, both positively and negatively. A number of schools from Vermont, New Mexico and Chicago have banned the app because of hateful racial and anti-gay statements. In just the last month, there were three instances of schools being put on lockdown after mobile Yik Yak postings, threatening to bomb the properties.
Just yesterday, Southeast Polk High School in Des Moines, Iowa canceled its classes due to a shooting threat made through Yik Yak. To be clear, I don’t blame the Yik Yak app directly – but the technology has opened up a new comfort zone to send threats, which in and of themselves are attacks against our psyche.
Freedom of speech is a very powerful right we have in this country. However, it clearly doesn’t give people the right to threaten others. In the case of such threat, I for one applaud law enforcement’s use of using digital tracking and forensics to find these vermin. I truly hope that the person or persons who thought it necessary to post these comments, are made to answer for their actions.
In the meantime, my kids will get a day off of school tomorrow. At first I felt that our school should stand firm and remain open, with the help of police. Then I quickly came to the conclusion that erring on the side of safety for kids, is never too great of a sacrifice. My introspection leads me to wonder if too much free and untraceable speech, especially in the hands of the socially irresponsible, is necessarily a good thing.
Illigitimi Non Carborundum. Translated from Latin to mean ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down’.