Livestreaming Platform Yubo Collaborating with Law Enforcement on Texas Shooting

The mass shooter met a girl from Germany on the app. He later told her about his plans over text shortly before entering the school.
Yubo
Image: SOPA Images/Contributor

Live streaming platform and social network Yubo is cooperating with law enforcement in the investigation of the shooter behind the Uvalde, Texas school massacre. The shooter used the app to meet a girl in Germany that he later texted shortly before the shooting.

“We are deeply saddened by this unspeakable loss and are fully cooperating with law enforcement on their investigation,” a Yubo spokesperson told Motherboard in an emailed statement. “At this stage, we are not legally able to release any specific user information outside of direct requests from law enforcement, but can confirm that we are investigating an account that has since been banned from the platform.”

Advertisement

Yubo’s tagline is “Get friends. Get real. Go Live.” The app, which was founded in 2015, is a meld of live video chats, texting, and discovering new contacts based on their interests or location. Yubo users can play games with one another too.

“I love the app because i can meet people from all around the world. It has introduced me to many new friends that i can gladly say that are people in which i can trust,” one review of Yubo on its Apple App Store page reads.

Do you work on content moderation for Yubo? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on jfcox@jabber.ccc.de, or email joseph.cox@vice.com.

On Wednesday CNN reported that the shooter communicated with a girl in Germany shortly before the shooting. The pair met on Yubo, CNN said. The child spoke to CNN with her mother’s consent, and the child said that speaking to the shooter over social media was her only connection to him.

Those communications shortly before the shooting between the shooter and the girl appear to have taken place over text; According to ABC, in other instances several Yubo users tried to report the shooter to the platform for suspicious messages and statements made through the app, but "regardless of how many times he was reported ... he would still come back,” one user said. 

Advertisement

Yubo told Motherboard that it uses artificial intelligence to moderate live streams in real time. After these systems flag content, or when a user manually reports it, a team of moderators then intervene. The app also takes screenshots every second as part of this process.

Like many other tech companies, Yubo has partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), giving Yubo the capability to report suspected online child exploitation to the organization in real-time. Yubo told Motherboard its “SAFE mode” filters inappropriate messages such as sexual requests. 

Earlier this week Yubo announced it is adopting an age verification system that prompts the app to turn on the phone’s camera, after which the user is asked to look at their phone. A “liveness algorithm” then aims to detect movement to check that user is not simply displaying a photo taken from elsewhere, TechCrunch reported. The system then allegedly detects whether their face matches the age they entered when signing up to the app.

Moderating live streams has traditionally posed an issue for social networks. The Christchurch, New Zealand mass shooter broadcast their attack on Facebook Live. According to internal Facebook documents previously obtained by Motherboard, Facebook moderators had the ability to “snooze” a live stream, meaning it would resurface back to them every five minutes so they can reassess whether to act on the stream.

Subscribe to our cybersecurity podcast, CYBER. Subscribe to our new Twitch channel.