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Snapchat: ‘Zero Tolerance’ for Threats Using App

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
December 03, 2021
Posted in: Crime and Police News

A Snapchat spokesperson says the company has “zero tolerance” for people who use their mobile-phone app to make violent threats against schools.

However, the company has not explained what steps it is taking to prevent a wave of threats against schools that has swept the United States — and which roiled local districts this week.

The latest Mon-Yough school system affected was Clairton, which moved to online learning on Friday after officials said a threat of violence was made using Snapchat. Police are investigating.

On Thursday, a McKeesport Area School District student was charged by McKeesport police with making threats of violence to Founders Hall Middle School and West Mifflin Area School District on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The student has been charged as a juvenile and her name has not been released.

The threats, sent over Snapchat, caused an increased police presence at Founders Hall and led West Mifflin schools to go to remote learning on Wednesday.

They were just two of at least 15 threats of violence sent via Snapchat to Pittsburgh area schools this week.

Since October, Snapchat users have been using the app — which enables subscribers to send short photo-based messages that typically disappear after a few minutes — to send hoax threats to schools in California, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York and Ohio.

According to published reports, copycat threats typically include language promising to “shoot up the school.”

But the hoaxes took on a more ominous tone this week following an incident in Oxford Twp., Mich., near Detroit, where a 15-year-old student is accused of opening fire on students and staff at his high school, killing four people and injuring seven others.

The Detroit News reported that following the Oxford Twp. shootings, at least 60 other schools in Michigan received threats via social media “and other means” this week.

Pittsburgh Public Schools announced Thursday night that its campuses would be on “modified lockdown” on Friday after receiving “threats of possible violence against schools shared on social media.”

On Friday, a Snapchat spokesperson sent the following statement to Tube City Almanac:

“We have zero tolerance for any activity that threatens violence through Snapchat. We aggressively enforce against these violations and proactively report school threats to appropriate law enforcement.

“Our Trust and Safety and Law Enforcement Operations teams are available around the clock and respond to reports from users, as well as emergency requests from authorities, to which we usually respond within 30 minutes. We strongly encourage anyone who sees this type of activity to report it immediately so our Trust and Safety team can take action,” the company said.

The company did not answer when asked what steps Snapchat is taking to block violent messages, or discourage users from sending them in the first place.

Snapchat is extremely popular with younger users; according to one estimate, about 48 percent of all U.S. Internet users between ages 15 and 25 are subscribed to the service. Snapchat has more than 290 million active users and averages more than 4 billion messages per day.

An FBI spokesman told Pittsburgh’s KDKA-TV this week that social media threats against schools are increasing nationwide, but said he did not have local or national statistics on the trend.

He encouraged users who encounter such threats not to forward or disseminate them, but to contact their local police.

Originally published December 03, 2021.

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