Social media expert weighs in on clown craze threatening area sc - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Social media expert weighs in on clown craze threatening area schools

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Karen Freberg, a professor of social media at the University of Louisville, says people these days seem to live for the likes, shares, and retweets. Karen Freberg, a professor of social media at the University of Louisville, says people these days seem to live for the likes, shares, and retweets.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Over the last month, posts of creepy clowns have made the rounds on social media.

From Facebook to Twitter and Instagram, some pictures are just plain bizarre, while others are accompanied by serious threats.

“You may think that your friends think it’s funny, but to everyone else, it’s not,” said Karen Freberg, a professor of social media at the University of Louisville.

Freberg says people these days seem to live for the likes, shares, and retweets. She says people look at social media as, “a validation for their being.”

Surprised to see the clown craze take off, Freberg says she was even more astonished to see it reach this area.

According to investigators, threats appearing to involve clowns were found on Instagram and put several schools on heightened alert Wednesday. Those schools are in Jeffersonville, Clarksville, and Salem, Ind., as well as JCPS.

By late Wednesday, there were even more reports of clown postings on Instagram that included threats to area schools.

“Whether it’s a tweet or Facebook update or a YouTube clip, they want to get their notoriety and so, I think it’s important to address those threats seriously,” Freberg said.

So who is responsible for the posts? And other than the use of clowns, are the threats somehow connected?

Freberg says those questions are tougher to answer in this world of social media, because a trend can go viral in a matter of minutes.

“You have copycats that basically want to get their 15 seconds of fame instead of 15 minutes,” Freberg said.

But for those who think they can hide behind their computer or cell phone, Freberg says you will not be that tough to track down.

“You’re providing information on what you’re doing, so it’s very easy to track what you’re saying, when you’re saying it,” Freberg said. “We’ve seen cases where students have gotten expelled for posting something inappropriate or they’ve gotten suspended, so the consequences are definitely severe.”

Louisville Metro Police Department has compiled a list of tips for parents to keep their kids safe online. That list can be found here.

JCPS released a statement Wednesday regarding new threats made toward schools:

The district and security personnel are aware of the social media posts. We are working with Louisville Metro Police to investigate the person who posted it.  We believe it is a hoax connected to recent Internet postings across the country regarding clown sightings. The safety of all of our students and staff is our top priority.  As a district, we take anything of this nature seriously and the schools mentioned in the post will be operating on heightened security tomorrow.

Related Stories:

Threats prompt heightened security in three southern Indiana school districts

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