Digital Threat Assessment Toolkit
5.0 Other Notable Social Media Platforms
Kik Messenger is a popular instant messaging (IM) app based out of Canada, which means U.S. laws don’t apply. The app uses Wi-Fi to transmit and receive text messages, videos, photos, and other content, but it is mostly used to “meet new friends” (strangers) and is popular with younger children and teens. Kik is known for preserving users’ anonymity. Because it’s an app, the texts won’t show up on the phone’s messaging service. Since messages can’t be tracked, young people may use Kik to get around parental restrictions. Lately there have been stories in the news about predators gaining access to young children via Kik Messenger. Also “porn bots” can spam accounts with sexually explicit messages and photos.
Reddit is a social media platform in which users become part of “subreddits” and submit questions, links, articles or images. Other users then interact with this news, comment, and vote on it. It is also a type of news aggregator since users share the latest news from various sources on the platform. There are more than a million subreddit forums, and topics can range from basketball to violence (see "Incel Subculture" box below).
Tellonym is an anonymous messaging app that allows users to ask and answer questions about each other anonymously. It has over 1 million daily users. Users create an anonymous profile and then leave “tells.” Tells are messages that are essentially asking others “tell me what you think of me.” The app advertises itself as “the most honest place on the internet” as it encourages users to ask things they would not normally ask and answer questions honestly. You don’t need to have an account to leave a tell. A Google Search will bring up warnings about the app and cyberbullying.
TikTok (formerly musical.ly) is used frequently by young people and was the world’s most downloaded app in the first quarter of 2018. Users can record videos of up to one minute, edit them, and add special effects and music. People can post publicly, share their location, and stream live. Users can see all videos in the app along with unfiltered comments.
Tumblr is a microblogging and networking site and is somewhat of a cross between a blog and Twitter. It is used for creating and sharing videos, photos, texts, links, and more, called “tumblogs.” Much of Tumblr is content that is copied and reposted (“reblogged”) similar to Twitter. Users join communities, and it is one of the top social media sites for self-expression. As of January 2019, there were over 456 million Tumblr blogs.
VSCO (pronounced “visco”) stands for Visual Supply Company, describing itself as “for creators, by creators.” Users create an account, upload or take photos, and then edit or add filters and share with other VSCO users or on other social media platforms. It is similar to Instagram but with limited social interaction. It is one of the most popular social media sites for tweens and teen girls. A “VSCO girl” is slang for a particular type of girl who may wear scrunchies, Birkenstocks or Vans shoes, and carry a backpack and Hydro Flask (stainless steel water bottle). Often young people will link their various social media accounts as they want their followers to follow them on all platforms.
WhatsApp is owned by Facebook and allows users to send texts, voice messages, images, status updates, videos, share their GPS location, and make video calls. It also has a group calling feature and a recently added WhatsApp Status, which is a feature that allows users to update video, photo, and text statuses which disappear after 24 hours. WhatsApp uses your phone’s cellular or Wi-Fi connection to message or voice call anyone in the world. Communication is limited to people who have the app, but it is currently being used by people in over 180 countries.
The Whisper app is popular with teens and is used to send and receive “confessional” anonymous messages and videos. Users post written messages (“whispers”) of whatever is on their mind on top of images or photos. Other users can then “like” or comment. Young people can get around parental restrictions since messages can’t be tracked. Posts are shared by geographical region and can be filled with “trolls” (people who intentionally write hurtful messages to get a reaction), inappropriate requests, and thoughts of self-harm, suicide, or violence. CBS New York described it as “the place to go these days to vent, come clean, or peer into other people’s secrets.”
YouTube was founded in 2005, bought by Google in 2006, and is now the largest video-sharing social media site in the world. According to a Pew Research Center study, 85% of teenagers aged 13-17 say they use the platform. Several mass shooters have had a history of posting videos on YouTube expressing their ideologies, grievances, and plans prior to carrying out their attacks.
“Incel” is a combination of “involuntary” and “celibate.” People who self-identify as incels (predominantly males under the age of 30) are members of an online subculture who define themselves as being unable to find a sexual partner despite desiring one. There are subreddit forums dedicated to the incel community (one had over 40,000 members).
Incels believe that men’s chances of success with women are determined by biology (jawline, eye color, muscle tone, etc.). They see themselves as genetically inferior which gives them no control over their situation. This fuels hatred and rage towards all females and certain types of males. They may also be anti-Semitic and racist. The terminology below is commonly used in the incel community:
- Femoid and Foid: Derogatory terms for women.
- Chads: Men (athletic, attractive, rich, etc.) who incels believe women find attractive.
- Betas (also “normies” or “cucks”): Average men.
- Stacys: Women who incels consider to be attractive and who will only be in relationships with Chads. They are unattainable.
- Beckys: Less attractive women who incels believe will be in relationships with most average men. Incels believe they are owed sex and attention from Beckys.
- Red Pilled: Waking up to the “truth,” or seeing reality (from the movie The Matrix).
- Black Pilled: Seeing the “truth” that women are only attracted to the highest-status men.
- 80/20 Rule: The belief that 80% of women desire the top 20% of men which leaves the other 80% of men to “fight” for the remaining 20% of women.
At least four mass murders have been attributed to men who self-identified as incels or had mentioned “incel” in their writings or postings. Incels may pose threats ranging from harassment to rape and other violence. Although some subreddits have been shut down due to pro-violence posts, Reddit still has an active incel community.