ALBANY, N.Y. – A bomb threat on an anonymous social networking site has led to a felony arrest of a UAlbany student.
Police at the University at Albany say they received several calls about an anonymous post on the social networking site Yik Yak, threatening to bomb the campus.
Yik Yak is a location based online application that allows users to send messages anonymously to anyone within a 1.5 mile radius of the post.
UAlbany freshman Zac Gamello says he uses Yik Yak to see what peers are talking about. As he explains, the app is similar to Twitter.
“You can just put up a quick little message and you have all different people replying to you,” said Gamello.
But while most messages are harmless, sometimes what is meant to be a joke goes too far.
“This individual probably thought that there was going to be some protection, they were going to be somewhat anonymous,” said Reg Harnish with Greycastle Security.
Harnish says those who believe they will remain anonymous are wrong. University police say they contacted Yik Yak as soon as they became aware of the threat Tuesday afternoon and were able to track the threat back to a male student within about four hours.
When it became clear the student, whose name has not been released, was not a threat, he was charged with falsely reporting a crime — a federal offense.
“I think we underestimate just how serious the impact can be,” said Harnish.
The school says this incident serves as a warning that bomb threats are never funny, something Gamello says most students already know.
“You can’t say that kind of stuff in today’s world, because there are definitely consequences and they have the technology to track it back to you,” said Gamello.
UAlbany Police were the first to admit that the Yik Yak app does have a good side, by giving students an anonymous way to talk through feelings of addiction and depression-giving them a community to support them. However, if at any point if a user threatens themselves or others, police say that is when the privilege of being anonymous will be revoked.
This most recent threat isn’t the only time the app has caused some controversy in the Capital Region. The Shenendehowa Central School District dealt with a similar online threat last month.