Yik Yak Raises Controversy On College Campuses

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HughPickens.com writes Jonathan Mahler writes in the NYT that just as Facebook swept through the dorm rooms of America’s college students a decade ago, the social app Yik Yak, which shows anonymous messages from users within a 1.5-mile radius is now taking college campuses by storm. “Think of it as a virtual community bulletin board — or maybe a virtual bathroom wall at the student union, ” writes Mahler. “It has become the go-to social feed for college students across the country to commiserate about finals, to find a party or to crack a joke about a rival school.” While much of the chatter is harmless, some of it is not. “Yik Yak is the Wild West of anonymous social apps, ” says Danielle Keats Citron. “It is being increasingly used by young people in a really intimidating and destructive way.” Since the app’s introduction a little more than a year ago, Yik Yak has been used to issue threats of mass violence on more than a dozen college campuses, including the University of North Carolina, Michigan State University and Penn State. Racist, homophobic and misogynist “yaks” have generated controversy at many more, among them Clemson, Emory, Colgate and the University of Texas. At Kenyon College, a “yakker” proposed a gang rape at the school’s women’s center. Colleges are largely powerless to deal with the havoc Yik Yak is wreaking. The app’s privacy policy prevents schools from identifying users without a subpoena, court order or search warrant, or an emergency request from a law-enforcement official with a compelling claim of imminent harm. Esha Bhandari, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, argues that “banning Yik Yak on campuses might be unconstitutional, ” especially at public universities or private colleges in California where the so-called Leonard Law protects free speech. She said it would be like banning all bulletin boards in a school just because someone posted a racist comment on one of the boards. In one sense, the problem with Yik Yak is a familiar one. Anyone who has browsed the comments of an Internet post is familiar with the sorts of intolerant, impulsive rhetoric that the cover of anonymity tends to invite. But Yik Yak’s particular design can produce especially harmful consequences, its critics say. “It’s a problem with the Internet culture in general, but when you add this hyper-local dimension to it, it takes on a more disturbing dimension, ” says Elias Aboujaoude.” “You don’t know where the aggression is coming from, but you know it’s very close to you.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Yik Yak Raises Controversy On College Campuses

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