What is Yubo, the social networking application used by the Uvalde school shooter?

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You may have never heard of Yubo before. It’s certainly not as big as Facebook, YouTube or Instagram. The social networking app isn’t even generally listed alongside relatively new social platforms that have become hugely popular with Gen Z, such as TikTok, Twitch, or Discord.

But now Yubo has been thrust into the mainstream. Why? The Uvalde school shooter was reportedly a rig user. And, according to those who interacted with him on Yubo, the shooter showed warning signs.

But what is Yubo?

Yubo website showing users where to access mobile platform applications.
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Formerly known as Yellow, Yubo is a social media platform that mixes live streaming and social media. Based in Paris, France and founded in 2015, it is a mobile-only platform, meaning it requires an iOS or Android device to join the network.

Yubo’s user base is made up mostly of teenagers and young adults. According Tech Crunch, the company claims that 99% of its users are Gen Z and between the ages of 13 and 25. Mobile analytics company Sensor Tower estimates that the Yubo app has been downloaded over 18 million times in the United States

For a time, Yubo earned the tagline of “Tinder for Teens.” Yubo developers first developed the app to connect Snapchat users after realizing young people were looking to make new connections on the platform. Snapchat is generally designed as a social platform for users and people they already know. Users and their posts are not publicly viewable as they would be on platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

Noticing an opening in the market, the Yubo team created an app where Snapchat users could connect with strangers by swiping left or right, like on Tinder. The idea quickly evolved into a full-fledged platform, now known as Yubo.

While the news that the Uvalde school shooter used the app brings Yubo to the spotlight, this isn’t the first time Yubo has been in the spotlight. As protocol underline in 2021, Yubo has caused a lot of concern among the parents of its target audience. The local news affiliate of CBS in Tampa Bay is among the media that aired a segment notify parents about new app children might use in 2020. Business Insider reports that a 26-year-old adult man was arrested in 2019 after trying to meet a 12-year-old girl he met on the app.

According to Yubo, the platform tries to separate its underage users and its adult user base on the platform. The company announcement new age verification techniques just a day after the shooting, before the presence of Uvalde’s shooter on the platform became public knowledge.

Earlier this week, Yubo Told Business Insider that it’s constantly working on features and protocols to keep its users safe, like AI-powered livestream and chat moderation. The platform also does not display ads or show users any algorithmically promoted content, two features typically found on social apps that can negatively impact teens.

However, The New York Times, Washington Postand VICE all spoke to Yubo users who had interacted with Uvalde shooter Salvador Ramos on the app. A young girl said Ramos asked her to be his girlfriend on Yubo, which she described as “Tinder for kids”. According to the girl, Ramos became aggressive after she turned him down.

The New York Times spoke to a 15-year-old girl in Germany whom Ramos met on Yubo. The teenager said Ramos sent her pictures of his guns and told her about his plans on the day of the shooting. However, she didn’t believe him.

According to a 16-year-old boy who spoke to the Washington Post, Ramos has frequently made hostile comments on the Yubo platform. He said the shooter frequently posted photos of dead cats and threatened girls on the app with sexual assault and rape on Yubo’s text message and live chat features. He said Ramos’ account was often reported to Yubo for his comments, but the platform never acted, allowing Ramos to continue sending threats to other Yubo users.

In addition to Yubo’s inability to respond to Ramos’ actions on the platform, the shooter’s Yubo account rest live on the platform until Saturday, almost 4 days after the shooting which left 21 dead, including 19 students.

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