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Trending Now: Yik Yak

by Kim Williams  -   March 18, 2014
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Yik Yak is similar to Twitter but allows users to remain anonymous.

A new social media application called Yik Yak® has recently gotten unwanted attention as a tool for bullying and threats. Yik Yak is similar to Twitter in the way it posts users’ updates; however, unlike Twitter, Yik Yak allows users to remain anonymous to each other. Those accessing the app do not have to log in or give a name. Yik Yak also broadcasts only within a specific area and to a certain number of users. Think of it as a large chat room for those within a specific geographic region. The 500 closest “Yakkers” within a 30-mile radius may see posts. It is similar to the app Vibe, which was used to broadcast messages during the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011.

Yik Yak’s founders designed it as  a tool for sharing local news on college campuses. Although the application restricts use to those over the age of 17, it does not have the ability to actually verify the age of someone downloading the app. Students in high schools and middle schools have discovered it and many have added it to their smart phones.

The majority of the time, Yik Yak is a harmless way to communicate; however, a small number of its users hide behind the anonymity it proffers to broadcast disruptive messages within their local communities. For example, threats posted on Yik Yak on March 4, 2014, caused a high school in Marblehead, Massachusetts to be evacuated twice. Bullies have also used it to send intimidating messages. Walhalla High School in South Carolina reports that students are describing a variety of hurtful posts to guidance counselors. “No one deserves to be told you’re an awful human being, I don’t like you, I want to fight you,” said a student from the school.

Yik Yak uses GPS technology to track the location of users and broadcast “yaks” within a defined geographic region. Recently this same technology was used to disable the app within areas encompassing middle schools and high schools in Chicago after multiple complaints of misuse by underage students. Yik Yak’s founders are working on a way to block access across all American middle and high school campuses. Underage students could still use it though once away from these campuses.

Even though Yik Yak is anonymous to users and to the general public, law enforcement may determine who sent certain messages if this information is needed for an investigation. They have traced threats of violence made via the new app to at least one teenager’s phone.

For more information on Yik Yak:

Cyber Bullying Prompts School District to Block New App

Yik Yak Banned as Schools Grapple with Toxic Anonymous Social Chat

Amid Bullying & Threats of Violence, Yik Yak Shuts off Access to U.S. Middle & High School Students

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