A tweet from an anonymous user on Twitter about a potential cyber attack against Gold Beach High School computers appeared to be the source of rumors of a physical danger at the school.
Dixon Andrews, chief of the Gold Beach Police Department, said there was never a direct threat against students or staff, but that police had beefed up security at Gold Beach schools on Monday. The tweets at the source of the rumor appear to be about a potential cyber attack against the school’s computer system.
The school’s computers, as of Monday, had not been attacked or hacked.
Principal Dennis Johnson of Gold Beach High School said that because of the rumors only about 20 percent of high school students attended class Monday and around 30 percent of Riley Creek Elementary School students. Both schools were open Monday, with extra security precautions in place.
Andrews said the source of the rumors that had spread through social media about a potential attack against the school were found on Twitter and that Gold Beach police were working with the Curry County District Attorney’s Office and the Oregon Department of Justice to find the person behind the Twitter account @GBHSdown , who was responsible for the tweets that started the rumors.
Twitter user @GBHSdown tweeted at 8:47 p.m., Jan. 4 that “The #rage will be real. #GBHS.”
@GBHSdown tweeted again at 8:58 p.m., “Haha, people have no idea what’s coming Monday.”
The tweets made the rounds on social media, with the tweet from @GBHSdown being circulated and discussed by several Twitter users claiming in their account information to be students of Gold Beach High School, with a couple of them saying they would not be attending school Monday because of the perceived threat from the @GBHSdown tweets.
Another tweet in the early hours of Jan. 5 from @GBHSdown mentioned a potential cyber attack. This was retweeted by @DykstraDykstra, who later tweeted at 3:47 a.m., Jan. 6 that “I bet every kid at #GBHS $1 that the “threats” are computer related. Last tweet was “injection capabilities.” Clearly computer related. LAWL.”
The perceived threat against students appeared to be created from a combination of rumors and the ability of social media to propagate them quickly. Andrews likened what happened to the game “telephone” that children play when they are younger, with a statement becoming something completely different by the time it goes through a number of people.
“Things had a life their own once the rumors was on social media,” Johnson said.
Andrews said Gold Beach Police Department would continue to monitor the situation to ensure students are safe and will continue its investigation.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a social media site that allows users to publish or “tweet” messages that are no more than 140 characters. Users are identified by handles, which are prefaced with the “@” sign, and can be searched for on the site or mentioned in other people’s tweets. The hashtag or “#” sign, when placed before a word, enables all tweets with that hashtag to be searchable and grouped together with other messages that have that hashtag, regardless of the user or the user’s location. Messages can be “retweeted,” meaning a user can send another user’s tweet to the person’s followers.
Twitter, which currently has 500 million users, was started in 2006 and is based in San Francisco.