Caring Before Sharing

By Courtney Hibler

Jambar Contributor

Unofficial social media accounts should be avoided when it comes to receiving emergency information.

These accounts can spread panic if a false claim is made regarding a crisis situation.

Shortly after the mass shooting at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 2, a false report of an active shooter on the campus of the University of Southern California quickly spread on social media.

Youngstown State University has a precise system to make sure information given in such a situation is accurate.

YSU Chief of Police Shawn Varso said the YSU Police will monitor social media if this type of event occurs.

“We have various resources to turn to,” Varso said. “One of them is the FBI and we can see if they have a database of information on the person who made the false claim.”

Varso said the YSU Police worked with the FBI several years ago on a case for YSU, which included an individual who made a bomb threat toward the university.

YSU Police are able to go statewide with the Intelligence Fusion Center in Columbus, Varso said.

This center uses many resources to create a database of information.

Social Media and Digital Marketing Coordinator Kati Hartwig said a listening tool is used to follow a list of hashtags, locations and keywords on social media.

“We see what’s coming up in conjunction with the university,” Hartwig said. “We save anything that would be of use with what we’re looking into.”

“Always remember to not believe any unofficial accounts,” Hartwig said.

The user’s social media account is able to be looked into thoroughly if need be.

“We can also get subpoenas and go directly to the user’s social media accounts,” Varso said.

If the individual making threats is caught, they will be punished.

“We deal with the criminal element of it,” Varso said. “When information and evidence is developed, it gets taken to the prosecutor’s office.”

The directors of student discipline will run an investigation of their own, parallel with the YSU Police, Varso said.

“The outcome could either be a warning all the way up to expulsion,” Varso said.

Kameron Hobbs, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice at YSU, said information should not be posted to social media unless it’s needed.

“If someone personally hears a gunshot, I feel as though it’s okay to spread the word to prevent danger to others,” Hobbs said.

Madalyn Bitner, a sophomore majoring in early childhood education at YSU, said nothing should be posted to social media under any circumstances until confirmed.

“False accusations will be made,” Bitner said. “This will cause panic amongst others and initiate chaos.”

Hartwig said she wants to make sure students are looking at the correct resources.

“Sign up for campus alerts and follow the YSU Police on social media,” Hartwig said.