Yik Yak racial threat altered

HOUGHTON – A screenshot posted on Twitter and circulated locally of a November comment posted on the social media site Yik Yak including the phrase “gonna shoot all black people” featured a manipulated version of the post, a Michigan Technological University official said.

However, that had no impact on the university’s subsequent actions against the alleged Yik Yak poster, as well as notices to the public, which were based on the unedited post, said John Lehman, associate vice president for enrollment, marketing and communications at Tech.

The Yik Yak post stated “Gonna shoot all black people … a smile tomorrow :),” Lehman said. The app allows users to post messages and comments that can be viewed by other users within a 5-mile radius.

A Twitter account devoted to screenshots from MTU’s Yik Yak posted a version of the original that removed the final three words and emoticon.

The unchanged portion of the text references death threats made in Missouri to black college students days earlier.

In an MLive article after the Tech incident, director of university marketing and communications Ian Repp said the university had been on Yik Yak since a year before the incident and regularly monitors social media traffic.

“The University’s releases to the campus community (Clery releases), and investigation of a potential threat were based only on the initial unedited post,” Lehman said in a statement sent Friday. “That investigation was already underway when the subsequent edited version was published by others and apparently disseminated by others to the public.”

Tech student Matthew Shultz, 21, of Norway, was alleged to have made the threat on Yik Yak. He was arraigned in November on a charge of disturbing the peace, a 90-day misdemeanor.

The weekend after Shultz’s arrest, about 200 people from Michigan Tech and the community participated in a peace march to the Houghton County Courthouse. Organizers asked for more serious charges to be brought against Shultz.

In December, the charge against Shultz was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it can be brought again.

The investigation is still active, said Dan Bennett, director and chief of MTU Public Safety and Police Services.

Under the federal Clery Act, universities receiving federal money must inform the public of campus crimes. Messages sent by the university referred in general terms to a threat directed towards black members of the Michigan Technological University community.


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