The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Concern over Yik Yak stems from anonymity

3 min read
By ANDY UNGER Following controversial events last year, Yik Yak has received somewhat of a negative reputation on campus. It is known for being both a great application to keep up on the gossip around campus as well as a source of a cyber bullying. / Joseph Albanese


Following controversial events last year, Yik Yak has received somewhat of a negative reputation on campus. It is known for being both a great application to keep up on the gossip around campus as well as a source of a cyber bullying.

Though the University received much scrutiny for allowing the application to work on campus, no changes have been made. However, there needs to be a major change implemented in how we deal with Yik Yak, although it is important to realize that the application is only part of the problem.

Individuals on and around campus need to learn to live peacefully with one another, in order to solve the fundamental problem that Yik Yak only serves to expose and perpetuate.

I first started noticing how much students rely on Yik Yak about three weeks into the semester. My boyfriend downloaded the app as a way to keep up with the gossip on campus. Obviously, I thought this sounded incredible, so I too downloaded the app. Within five minutes, I was embroiled in an argument with another user over whether two strange men telling a lone girl to come to their room at midnight, while she was outside, to smoke, was sexual harassment.

Even though the girl thanked me profusely for taking her side, the situation left me feeling sick to my stomach. I deleted the app almost immediately afterwards. Many people are aware of the negative and threatening comments that were directed toward group members of Feminist United last year, but our UMW campus is not alone in this fight against cyber-anonymous bullying.

At Colgate University, the Huffington Post reported, racist posts on Yik Yak led to widespread protests.While, similarly, at Kenyon College, the app was used to threaten sexual assault towards the women who worked at the campus’ Crozier House, their center for women.

Although many people support the idea that anonymity is a good thing, and that it allows for discussions we could not have otherwise, all it really does is take away the consequence of projecting offensive comments on others.

Nobody would post on Facebook that they were planning to rape or murder, but on Yik Yak, they do. Really, the only practical use for Yik Yak, in my own opinion and experience, is to call unknown people out on leaving their laundry in the dryer too long in the residence halls.

For me, there are only two alternatives that Yik Yak must consider.

First, the creators of Yik Yak, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, need to implement some sort of identification policy within the app. For although there is currently a reporting system within the app, it is not, in my opinion, nearly strong enough since it only gives a street address.

There is no specific time, in the terms given, when a person has gone too far and needs to be reported to the authorities; is it after they have been reported once? Five times? I believe this needs to be specified and the information made public about the change.

On the other hand, campuses could ban the app entirely. Although it might be seen as a violation of the First Amendment.

Honestly, there is no permanent solution to the problem of hateful words and actions. Either alternative just eradicates some of the problem.

The only real solution would be for everyone to learn to get along with one another, and to put away hateful urges towards people different than themselves. It looks like that is something that the students here are slowly working their way towards, and I am grateful.

But until we can all live peacefully with each other, we need to control the ways in which students communicate their frustrations.

7 thoughts on “Concern over Yik Yak stems from anonymity

  1. Thank you so much for writing this, Andy. A very logical an sensible response to what has happened here on campus. As someone who has been targeted on the app, I agree with most all of this and thank you for publishing this piece and standing with us.

  2. I appreciate this article for address the real concerns people have about cyberharassment on yik yak! I think that as the umw community works on following our own community standards of respect and courtesy we also need policies in place to protect students from those who make threats.

  3. Thank you for writing this Andy!
    The safety problems with Yik Yak are not exclusive to UMW. Whether or not you agree with FUC is completely irrelevant to this issue. NO ONE should be made to feel unsafe. A difference in opinion neither constitutes nor justifies rape threats and cyberstalking. That was the entire foundation for the Title IX complaint, which was already in the process of being filed BEFORE Grace’s death. As a member of E-board, Grace was involved in that process, and if you actually read the complaint, you’ll see that her name was redacted due to her death.
    I am baffled as to why anyone would think access to a social media app is more important than the safety of actual people. I am extremely concerned with how Yik Yak works as an anonymous app that operates in terms of PROXIMITY. When it comes to real threats to oneself from an anonymous source within a 10 mile radius, “logging off” and simply “ignoring” it won’t help anyone. Something needs to be done.

  4. great article. Personally think removing anonymity from yik yak wouldn’t change the culture on college campuses – it’s not like the problems were created on or by yik yak, and getting rid of it wouldn’t make people stop thinking this way. feel like in some ways removing it could actually be worse, because what shows up on yik yak can tell us about underlying sentiments at UMW. Also, I’m pretty sure yik yak has a policy to remove posts that target specific people, but that relies on them getting reported so I think there should also be active moderation to find people who are being abusive and have them dealt with.

  5. Although I’m not a lawyer and have never used “Yik Yak,” I have gotten tired of hearing that UMW cannot ban Yik Yak due to the First Amendment.

    The full text of the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    There is no obstacle to banning Yik Yak from UMW’s campus, given that UMW is not Congress and is not passing any laws. Educational institutions routinely impose restrictions and regulations on the conduct of members of their community; this is not legislation, and violation of school rules typically results in disciplinary action (e.g., expulsion), not arrest.

    If that doesn’t convince you, consider:

    From the article:

    “Speech that involves incitement … [or] threats … are all completely exempt from First Amendment protections.”

    “Along with communicative restrictions, less protection is afforded for uninhibited speech when the government acts as subsidizer or speaker, is an employer, controls education, or regulates the following: the mail, airwaves, legal bar, military, prisons, and immigration.”

    Perhaps Rick Hurley and other defenders of this position should consult a good lawyer before insisting that they cannot ban an application from campus for constitutional reasons…or at least Wikipedia.

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