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To dispel anxiety over assault rumors seen on social media, UF faculty and Gainesville Police urge students to look to official sources for information.

Yik Yak, a popular anonymous posting app that launched in November 2013, has been a platform for rumors and threats to public safety on campuses around the nation.

Some threats have led to closed buildings, campus alerts or student arrests.

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said UF had to deal with false rumors recently but through a different channel.

“It was concerning to us when there were some false rumors posted on Twitter during the height of concerns about assaults on campus,” Sikes said. “Our social media director saw it, and we worked hard to get the correct information out immediately.”

Sikes said students should check their email and texts, as well as UF’s Twitter and homepage for the facts.

She and UF social media director Todd Sanders said the UF fact hotline was made to dismiss these online rumors.

“Things in the real-time nature of the social web, there’s so much information out there, and not all of it is factual,” Sanders said.

Sanders said social media is not actively monitored for rumors.

“When we’re aware of things, we definitely address them to relieve any unnecessary anxieties,” he said.

GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias said he doesn’t think social media sites like Yik Yak are necessarily a threat to campus safety. If anyone has an issue with public safety or hears a rumor, GPD always recommends checking its official social media channels, as well as UF’s for information.

“We do rumor patrol as best as possible,” Tobias said. “With social media being so broad, it’s very difficult to put an end to all rumors. Just because you throw an anonymous tag on something, it makes that a little more prevalent. False rumors and criminal activity are two different things.”

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He said GPD’s social media is not monitored 24 hours a day, but there is usually someone close when major events and incidents occur.

“If you’re going to look to an anonymous site for information, you’re looking in the wrong place,” Tobias said.

Some students, like UF chemistry senior George Book, said that when he and his friends read rumors on Yik Yak, they do more research to verify it.

“I think people shouldn’t believe everything they hear,” Book, 21, said. “But I think people know the difference between fact and fiction. They don’t take it too seriously.”

Sikes said UF has worked hard with social media to make sure all the correct information is available to students.

“It just requires additional efforts on our parts, which is fine,” she said, “but it’s important to remind students that they need to get their information from official channels, especially when it relates to emergency situations or campus safety or security.”

[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 10/1/2014]

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