(CNN) — Salvador Ramos told the girls he would rape them, flashed a rifle he bought and threatened to shoot at schools during live broadcasts on the social media app Yubo, according to multiple users who witnessed the threats in recent weeks.
But those users — all teenagers — told CNN they didn’t take it seriously until they saw news that Ramos had shot and killed 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, this week.
Three Yubo users said they saw Ramos threaten to commit sexual violence or carry out school shootings; It is an application used by tens of millions of young people around the world.
All users said they reported Ramos’ account to Yubo because of the threats. But it seemed, they said, that Ramos was able to maintain a presence on the platform. CNN reviewed a Yubo direct message in which Ramos allegedly sent a user a $2,000 receipt for his online gun purchase from a Georgia-based firearms manufacturer.
“Guns are boring,” the user replied. “No,” Ramos apparently replied.
In a statement to CNN, a Yubo spokesperson said “we are deeply saddened by this unspeakable loss and fully cooperate with law enforcement in their investigation.” Yubo takes user security seriously and is “investigating an account that has since been banned from the platform,” the spokesperson said, but declined to disclose specific information about Ramos’ account.
Usage of Yubo skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, as teens in lockdown turned to the app to get a rough experience of what a person-to-person interaction would be like. The company says it has 60 million users worldwide — 99% of whom are 25 or younger — and has announced security features including “second-by-second” monitoring of live streams using artificial intelligence and moderators. humans.
Despite those security features, users who spoke to CNN said Ramos made personal and graphic threats. During a live broadcast, Amanda Robbins, 19, said Ramos verbally threatened to break down her door and rape and murder her after she rebuffed his sexual advances. She said that she saw Ramos threaten others with “similar acts of sexual assault and violence.”
Robbins, who said he lives in California and has only interacted with Ramos online, told CNN he reported him to Yubo multiple times and blocked his account, but continued to see him on live streams making lewd comments.
“[Yubo] It says that if you see any behavior that is not okay, to report it. But they haven’t done anything,” Robbins said. “That kid was allowed to come online and say this.”
Robbins and other users said they did not take Ramos’ comments seriously because troll behavior is common on Yubo.
Hannah, an 18-year-old Yubo user from Ontario, Canada, said she reported Ramos to Yubo in early April after he threatened to shoot up her school and rape and kill her and her mother during a streaming session on Yubo. live. Hannah said that Ramos was allowed back on the platform after a temporary ban.
Hannah, who asked CNN not to reveal her last name to protect her privacy, said Ramos’ behavior had become increasingly brazen in the last week. In a live broadcast, she said, Ramos briefly turned her webcam to show a gun on his bed.
Users said they did not record Ramos’s threats during live broadcasts.
Yubo’s community guidelines tell users not to “threaten or bully” others and prohibit harassment and bullying. Content that “promotes violence, such as violent acts, guns, knives, or other weapons” is also prohibited.
Just a week before the Uvalde attack, Yubo announced an expanded age verification process that involves users taking a photo of themselves and the app using artificial intelligence to estimate their age. The platform only allows people over the age of 13 to register, and does not allow users over the age of 18 to interact with those under the age of 18.
Yubo, which is based in Paris, has stirred controversy since it launched in 2015 under the name Yellow, with some local law enforcement officials warning of the possibility of abuse. Police have arrested men in Kentucky, New Jersey and Florida who allegedly used Yubo to meet or exchange sexually explicit messages with minors. Last month, Indiana police investigating the 2017 slaying of two teens said they were seeking information about a Yubo user who had requested nude photos of underage girls on other social media platforms.
Ramos’ disturbing social media interactions didn’t just take place on Yubo. One user, a girl from Germany who met Ramos on Yubo, said she had some troublesome interactions with him through text and FaceTime. The 15-year-old said she received text messages from him shortly after she shot her grandmother and before his attack at the elementary school, as previously reported by CNN.
The minor said she thought any violent or strange comments Ramos made were a joke.
But after the shooting, she said, “I added it all up and now it made sense… I was too dumb to realize all the signs I was giving.”