Yik Yak Banned at Many Universities

By Janaya Greene on May 21, 2015
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America’s focus on the Internet is at an all-time high and along with social media, it is shaping the way we think faster and in ways it never has before.

From Facebook updates to Buzzfeed listicles, people can’t seem to take in enough of other’s information while simultaneously putting out their own across a multitude of platforms. As the Internet becomes more prevalent, more innovative websites and applications are being developed to catch the attention of a younger generation. One such application is Yik Yak.

Yik Yak is an anonymous app where people who are in the same location post “yaks” that can either be liked or disliked by an up or down rating. Not surprisingly, the application is prominent on college campuses where many young adults are of course living in the same city or town, and can write funny posts about problems in the dining hall or bad weather walking across the quad.

Lately, though, the app has created more controversy than laughs.

On some majority white campuses, Yik Yak has become a new avenue for people to post racially insensitive comments. In January, several black students at Clemson University met with the school’s administration to address slanderous posts toward them and other African American students.

In February, Capital University also weathered complaints about racially offensive comments posted on Yik Yak.

Co-Founder and COO of Yik Yak, Brooks Buffington (L) and Co-Founder and CEO of Yik Yak, Tyler Droll.

On my own college campus, Yik Yak blew up following the non-indictment of police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of 18-year-old Mike Brown. Racial tensions quickly escalated and Yak comments included claims that by not indicting Darren Wilson justice had been served, and that Mike Brown’s death was somehow justifiable.

Some Yakkers took the opportunity to start conversations about how Affirmative Action was the only reason that there were “so many” black students on “their” college campus—this particular yak received numerous upward ratings by users.

Though some universities, including Clemson, are still trying to decide the future parameters of Yik Yak on their campuses, Norwich University in Vermont and Utica College in New York have already banned the app to protect their students of color from harmful comments.

This is an important preventative measure, but I can’t help to wonder what the creators of Yik Yak, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, are doing themselves to stop the racist posts that are being published on their platform. The posts that I read on my own university’s Yik Yak were not removed the following day, and those that were removed were replaced by more rude remarks from other students.

Too many universities are dealing with the same problem for Yik Yak to ignore the racist content being posted to their platform. There is no way that every rude post can be detected, but their inaction thus far makes them complicit by default. There has to be a way to increase the surveillance of the anonymous posts.

Most people would not suggest Yik Yak be banned from college campuses (as it is at high schools), because the assumption is that college students are respectful young adults. But the content coming from the app on campuses proves otherwise. It is time for Yik Yak to take responsibility and the necessary steps that will ensure the safety of its online community.

This article was originally posted at www.scenariosusa.org

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By Janaya Greene

Uloop Writer
Janaya Greene is a feminist, LGBTQ ally, racial equity activist, and all-around social justice warrior! She is also a creative writer, freelance writer, and photographer in her free time. This Chicago-native has a short film, Veracity, presenting on Showtime Networks, her work has also been published on The Lantern, Scenarios USA blog, and Uloop. She is currently working with Adios Barbie as a Writing and Publishing Intern. When Janaya isn’t re-watching Breaking Bad or The Daily Show, she’s probably listening to reggae music while trying on a million different lipstick shades. You can visit her at http://www.iamafrocentricjay.wordpress.com.

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