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Social app being used in unintended ways

It’s an app that’s growing in popularity. And an app that has caused some problems in mid-Missouri.

On Friday, multiple schools in south Columbia were on lockdown because of a threat posted on a social media app called “Yik Yak.” On the app, someone posted about a gun being brought to Rock Bridge High School.

The app was initially designed for college aged people to interact with each other. But the use of the app is being seen in high school and middle school aged kids as well, even though the app is supposed to be used only by people over the age of 17.

“It’s based upon, looking at your IP address or your GPS coordinates and then bringing you into discussion with people who are close to you proximity-wise,” said Nate Canfield with Nate’s Computer Repair in Columbia.

When you download the app, it will ask to use your location. Then it will allow you to see posts from other people in your area.

“Unless you say your name, it is anonymous,” Canfield said. “It works just like a blog room or chat room.”

While it may seem harmless, Canfield said there are possible dangers parents should know about.

“Potential danger, well, you know, if you’ve got suspicious people that live in your neighborhood, predators could prey on younger kids this way,” he said.

But not only that, it can be used to post anonymous threats, which is what Columbia saw Friday.

“The huge threat recently is the fact that because it brings people together, kind of in the same room together, somebody can then yell ‘fire!’ and even if there isn’t one, it gets everybody’s attention and acts to essentially create terror, which is where terrorism comes from,” Canfield said.

The company says it is working to make some changes, such as disabling the use of the app in or near schools.

Columbia Public School officials said they’re working with the company to try to disable the use of the app near schools around Columbia. But as of Tuesday, no action had been taken yet.

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