Online threats — like those that recently derailed a guest lecture at Utah State University and disrupted Brighton High School for a week — are a growing problem. And police fear that the ability to successfully hide behind Internet anonymity will only encourage more such criminal behavior.

Thirty-five percent of school threats come across social media, texts or emails, according to a nationwide study in February by National School Safety and Security Services. None of the other modes — phone calls, verbal threats, bathroom graffiti — together even broke 18 percent.

In October, online threats forced feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian to cancel her guest lecture appearance at Utah State University. Sarkeesian has said she felt it would be irresponsible of her to show up under the threat of violence, knowing campus police would not screen for weapons at the door. Tim Vitale, USU spokesman, said at the time that Sarkeesian had received many of the same sort of threats in connection with previous venues and none had materialized, which was “part of the context … that led us to believe that the threat was not imminent or real.”

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