Days after an 18-year-old gunman fatally shot 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Texas, more details are emerging about the warnings the suspect posted on social media.
One of his apparent favorites: Yubo, an app that’s growing in popularity among teenagers.
Over the weekend, teen users of Yubo told CNN that they reported Salvador Ramos’ Yubo account after he threatened to shoot up schools and rape girls and after he showed off his gun. The threats were reportedly made before the May 24 mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The users told the news outlet it appeared that he was able to stay on the platform.
Yubo spokeswoman Amy Williams said in a statement that the company is “fully cooperating with law enforcement officials.” Williams said the company is “keeping details on individual user data and activity on our platform confidential” because it doesn’t want to hinder an active police investigation.
Social media sites have long grappled with policing threats and other violent content. But the rising popularity of direct messaging, some of which is encrypted so that even the companies can’t see conversations, has made it tougher for social networks to monitor what’s being shared online.
Here’s what you need to know about Yubo:
What is Yubo?
Launched in 2015, Yubo is a France-based social media app that allows users to chat with friends, livestream video and play games. The app, formerly known as Yellow, describes itself as “your place to be you.” Yubo users can stream a live video chat with up to 10 friends, as well as find others nearby who have similar interests.
The app is available on Apple and Android mobile devices.
Aimed at young people, Yubo has also been described as a “Tinder for Teens” because like the dating app you swipe right on a user’s profile picture to connect with them and swipe left if you’re not interested in becoming their friend.
How popular is Yubo?
Yubo says it has 60 million Gen Z users across 40 countries. Gen Z refers to people born between 1997 and 2012.
As of Tuesday, Yubo was No. 25 on Apple’s charts for free social networking apps. It was ranked No. 31 on Google’s Play’s charts for free social apps.
Sensor Tower, a mobile app intelligence firm, estimates that Yubo has seen 50.7 million worldwide installs on Android and Apple devices. In the US, Yubo has been downloaded 18.3 million times, the firm said.
How did the shooter use Yubo?
British news outlet Sky News reported that Ramos was active on Yubo and his account was still online four days after the shooting. His Yubo profile included a link to what appeared to be his Instagram account, which has been removed.
Amanda Robbins, a 19-year-old who said she lived in California, told CNN that when she rejected Ramos’ sexual advances on Yubo, he verbally threatened to break down her door and rape and murder her. Robbins said she reported the account but the company didn’t do anything.
Another user Hannah, who asked CNN to withhold her last name to protect her privacy, told the news outlet that she also reported Ramos’ account in early April after he threatened to shoot up her school and rape and kill her and her mom during a livestream.
In one direct Yubo message CNN viewed, Ramos allegedly sent a user a $2,000 receipt for his online gun purchase.
The Washington Post reported that Ramos would post images of dead cats and joked about sexual assault. In one video on Yubo recorded by a user, he could be heard saying “Everyone in this world deserves to be raped.”
CNET hasn’t been able to independently verify the alleged posts to Yubo or whether they were reported to the company.
What is Yubo doing to combat violent threats on the app?
Yubo, like other social networks, has rules against posting content that encourages or glorifies violence. “Don’t share content that promotes violence such as violent acts, guns, knives, or other weapons,” the platform’s community guidelines say.
Yubo uses a combination of technology and human moderators, according to Williams, the spokeswoman. The company uses artificial intelligence to not only “monitor chats, but also video during live streams, by taking second-by-second screenshots and flagging suspicious content to human moderators in real time.” The company will be sharing more in the coming days on “new developments” designed to enhance safety on the platform, Williams said.
Yubo has faced criticism for other issues, including failing to combat sexual exploitation and racism on the app. In May, the company said it launched a new age verification feature to make sure users are at least 13 years old.
Did the shooter use other social media apps besides Yubo?
Yes. Last week, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw said in a press conference that Ramos posted messages on Instagram, a photo-and-video service owned by Facebook parent company Meta.
McCraw said that Ramos was mentioned as “a school shooter” in a February Instagram chat. In March, he chatted twice on Instagram with people about buying a gun. On March 14, the gunman said, “Ten more days,” McCraw said. A user asked, “Are you going to shoot up a school or something?” The gunman replied, “No, and stop asking dumb questions, and you’ll see,” McCraw said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had previously said the gunman posted his plans on Facebook before the attack. Meta spokesman Andy Stone tweeted, “The messages Gov. Abbott described were private one-to-one text messages that were discovered after the terrible tragedy occurred.”
CNET viewed what appeared to be his Instagram and TikTok accounts before they were removed. On Instagram, Ramos shared an image of two guns and tagged another user. Instagram has been removing duplicates of the account but declined to answer questions about whether users reported the account before the shooting. TikTok didn’t respond to questions about what appeared to be Ramos’ TikTok account. The profile said “Kids be scared irl.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety didn’t respond to questions about Ramos’ Yubo and Instagram accounts.