Yik Yak is an app that allows users within a 5 mile radius to post to their community anonymously. Graphic created by Jericho Sanchez.

The app that caused cyberbullying, bomb threats, and hate speech has officially announced their comeback to social media. Yik Yak is an app that sends messages anonymously. The app closed down in 2017 after being swamped with complaints regarding racism, discrimation and threats of violence.

According to startup content site Failory,

“In 2014, a school in Massachusetts was forced to evaluate its students twice after receiving bomb threats on the app.”

“A student from Virginia Tech pleaded guilty of posting a threat on Yik Yak to repeat the 2007 campus shooting which took 32 lives.”

“Matthew Mullen was arrested by the police in Michigan because of Yaks (posts) he had made threatening a school shooting.”

In a 2015 report by Vox, a post by a Yik Yak user in the University of Missouri stated, “I’m going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see.”

“Some of you are alright. Don’t go to campus tomorrow.”

“We’re waiting for you at the parking lots. We will kill you all.”

The idea of a person giving death threats, being called out, or harassment in such a close proximity can really create a sense of fear and insecurity in your safe space. In other words, that worrying post on YikYak could be coming from the person sitting next to you in English class or standing behind you in line at the PCC bookstore.

Though, in 2021, the official Yik Yak website states: “We’re bringing Yik Yak back because we believe the global community deserves a place to be authentic, a place to be equal, and a place to connect with people nearby.”

The company purchased the rights to redevelop Yik Yak back in Feb 2021. They have created and combated every problem they had that stalled the very app in 2017.

“We’re committed to making Yik Yak a fun place free of bullying, threats, and all sorts of negativity.”

From 2013-2017 Yik Yak, valued at about $400 million in 2014 , was a hit on numerous college campuses throughout the nation, creating a revolution of free speech.

Not only did the app vary away from follow-hungry systems like those of Instagram or Twitter but removed the pressures of performing for social approval. At the time, anonymity meant freedom.

After asking some of the students around the PCC campus about what they thought of the app, sophomore Tiana Casanova said:

“I like the idea of having no external pressure to be someone or something in social media.”

Though anonymity is always held with responsibility and lack of liability the app became a lot more toxic.

These were a fraction of the problems that were caused by Yik Yak, including cyberbullying. The idea of cyberbullying is present in all social media, and has tried to be combatted many times. Although, with an app of anonymity, it was a different story. The app’s feature of only seeing messages in a 5 mile radius intensified the fear of bullying.

Yik Yak had many predecessors that ended up with the same outcome. Jodel, using anonymity and hyper-localization. Whisper, which created groups that were anonymous and free speech, Nearby, that aims to make friends in the vicinity. Candid, creating an option to join a specific organization to join chats in the same location and with similar interest.

 

Yik Yak’s Stance on Bullying and Hate speech.

 

According to the website, Yik Yak offers a “one-strike-and-you’re-out policy”. The company is focusing on countering every angle on bullying. They have created precaution,guardrails, and resources to combat the issue.

“If you see someone bullying another person or making a threat, please immediately downvote and report the message. Message posts (yaks) that reach -5 total upvote points are instantly removed from the feed. When you report a post, our team reviews it as soon as possible and takes action when necessary.”

They have also created Community Guardrails, a list of do’s and don’ts, to educate on internet etiquette.

Yik Yak also offers Stay Safe Resources and Mental Health Resources. These include things to avoid sharing in Yik Yak such as personal information, discussing children, promoting self-harm, and other dos and don’ts in the Community Guardrails.

The app also provides mental health resources, such as links to the SuicidePreventionLifeline, The Trevor Project, and other resources that might help anyone struggling with mental illness.

In the Yik Yak website “Why Yik Yak Exist” mentions the idea of living a life with the weight of labels.

“We need risk-free, lens-free spaces to be vulnerable, to be curious, and to learn more about the people around us.” Yik Yak said.

The company aims to reach a level of free speech without the criticization of the internet and its cancel-culture mentality.

After asking some of the students around the PCC campus about what they thought of the app.

 

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