People have an unfortunate tendency to pop off on social media, particularly when they think they can do so anonymously, but law enforcement authorities are increasingly showing that they will take threats of violence and hate crimes seriously and move quickly to apprehend those responsible.
In the latest instance, a person was arrested for issuing a threat against black students at Michigan Technological University through the messaging app Yik Yak — which lets people to anonymously create and view messages within a 10-mile radius.
The suspect, who has not been identified, was arrested late Thursday night and is scheduled to appear at the Houghton County Circuit Court on Friday morning, a spokesperson for the school said on Friday. The university immediately emailed the entire student body about the threat after it circulated around midday on Thursday, and increased security measures throughout the campus as a precautionary measure. The university did not offer details about the message or say whether the suspect was a fellow student.
About 7 percent of Michigan Tech's 7,000 students are black.
"It's important to remember that we are a community and will not tolerate threats to any member of our family," Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz said in a statement. "It's time we watch out for one another."
More information will be released later on Friday, the university said.
The arrest follows similar ones that were made this week in Missouri following student protests against racism at the University of Missouri campus in Columbia that led to the resignations of the university's president and chancellor. Three 19-year-old men have been charged on suspicion of posting terrorist threats on Yik Yak.
One of the three, Hunter M. Park, a sophomore studying computer science at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, is accused of sending various anonymous messages tagged "Columbia," among which one that said, "I'm going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see."
Connor Stottlemyre, a student at Northwest Missouri State University, was charged on Thursday with making terrorist threats on Yik Yak. He is accused of sending messages that said, "I'm gonna shoot any black ppl tomorrow so be ready," and, "I love evil, I can't wait for Northwest to make the news tomorrow."
According to a statement from Missouri University of Science and Technology, a former student named Tyler Bradenburg was also charged with making a terrorist threat after allegedly posting a message on Yik Yak that said, "Im gonna shoot up this school."
Meanwhile, on Thursday an online threat was made against students at Howard University, a historically black school in Washington, DC. Authorities are investigating, and the school has increased security.
The incidents raised tensions further this week at universities across the US, where students are conducting marches and walkouts to protest what they see as inadequate responses to racial abuse on campus. Apart from the University of Missouri, demonstrations have been mounted at Ithaca College, Stanford University, Emory University, Brown University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and many other schools.