Yik Yak app here to stay

By on February 10, 2015

Some universities have banned the app from their campus, but Quinnipiac says it has no intention of making similar efforts to remove Yik Yak for good.

 

Should Quinnipiac ban its students from using the popular app Yik Yak? This is the question many students and faculty may start hearing more often in light of the criticism the app has been facing over the negative, and sometimes threatening, posts that appear.

Universities in Vermont, New Mexico and Chicago have already banned Yik Yak, as they believe it motivates cyberbullying. Even though other universities across the nation have put a ban in place, Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan says he is not aware of any plans for Quinnipiac to ban Yik Yak.

On Yik Yak, users can post anonymous comments, which other users can then “upvote” or “downvote” based on their popularity. Users can only see other “Yaks” posted by people within a 10-mile radius.

Yik Yak was originally designed for college campuses, a Yik Yak spokesperson said via email. Yik Yak was created after its developers recognized a need to create conversations and build communities between people who may not have had any prior connection.

“With a majority of people communicating via mobile devices, we recognized the importance of a localized forum that could be open to anyone to discuss events, issues and general happenings in the area, particularly in college campuses,” the spokesperson said.

However, because of its anonymity and open forum, some posts can become offensive, racist and occasionally threatening.

Norwich University in Vermont is among the schools deciding to ban Yik Yak, according to the Huffington Post. The article says Norwich University President Richard Schneider blocked the app because it led to cyberbullying toward some students.

Khalilah Brown-Dean, associate professor of political science at Quinnipiac, said there is an ongoing interest to ensure students are thriving in an environment that is healthy and supportive.

“The issue of whether Yik Yak supports that type of environment is important for students to consider and has come up in a number of conversations,” Brown-Dean said.

Maddie Eldredge, a junior health science major who uses Yik Yak, said she has not yet noticed an issue with the Quinnipiac student body’s use of the app, but understands how negative posts could become a problem.

“If someone is victimized to the point of them becoming uncomfortable, then I think the appropriate action should be enforced,” Eldredge said.

Yik Yak has specific algorithms in place to help stop negative posts before they happen, said the spokesperson. Using the app’s GPS technology, they have geo-fenced almost all primary and secondary schools, preventing those students from accessing the app. They have also set the app to a 17+ age limit in certain stores to ensure the user base is age appropriate. Parents can also block the app on their children’s phone.

“Because of this open forum style, it’s important that the users are of a mature age to use it in positive ways,” the Yik Yak spokesperson said.

Some students do not feel the need for the university to ban the app. Nick Mills, a junior occupational therapy major, uses Yik Yak and has seen some negative posts but says they are rare.

“There is no reason to ban it, even if there are some racist or negative comments.” Mills said. “They never target anyone specifically.”

If a post does target an individual, is violent or threatens that individual, Yik Yak works directly with local officials to track down the user who posted it. Users can also flag or report certain posts through the app. Many negative comments receive five “downvotes” and are deleted from the app. Yik Yak monitors its conversations and posts, so any negative or harmful behavior will result in the respective user being blocked or banned from further use, the representative said.

“Negative comments are a reality but that is most often the work of a small minority,” the Yik Yak spokesperson said. “The positive posts and value far outweighs the misuse in each region.”

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