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posted by LaminatorX on Tuesday March 10 2015, @09:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the why-we-can't-have-nice-things dept.

Jonathon Mahler writes in the NYT that in much the same way that 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." And 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.”

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10 2015, @09:55PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10 2015, @09:55PM (#155723)

    It's news because there's the quasi-anonymous aspect to it. Although online quasi-anonymity is not a new concept, it's a concept that's entirely new to a whole generation of people who were raised under the Facebook/Google+ "real identity" nonsense. They were never exposed to the concept of anonymity during their formative years online, so the existence of it is news to these people.

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  • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Tuesday March 10 2015, @10:56PM

    by hemocyanin (186) on Tuesday March 10 2015, @10:56PM (#155784) Journal

    It isn't even anonymous due to the fact that YikYak obviously logs a lot of user info. For this app to be done right, there should be no login, no logs, and a server way off in the middle of some country extremely hostile to US interference.

    • (Score: 2) by TheRaven on Wednesday March 11 2015, @10:50AM

      by TheRaven (270) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @10:50AM (#155990) Journal
      The server doesn't need to be somewhere hidden - everything on the server can be public. It just needs to be running a TOR service so that you can connect to it without it knowing your IP, just the coarse-grained location info that you provide (which may be spoofed) and to then publish the results.
      sudo mod me up
  • (Score: 2) by Nerdfest on Wednesday March 11 2015, @12:57AM

    by Nerdfest (80) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @12:57AM (#155845)

    This is a nice demonstration of how free speech is supposed to work. If it offends you, too bad. If it's illegal, get a warrant. This comes under the category of "I will defend to the death his tight to say it", where the content of this app may be offensive, stupid, or other, but it's free.