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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: 2) by aclarke on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:26PM

    by aclarke (2049) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @02:26PM (#156062) Homepage
    The concept of "freedom of speech" is not enshrined in the same way around the world. It would be instructive for many Americans to realize that "free speech" is not something handed down to Moses by God as one of the Ten Commandments. It's something a bunch of people made up. As such, it might actually be counterproductive to society in many ways. Maybe yelling "FIRE" in a crowded theatre, or "BOMB" in a messaging app, shouldn't actually be protected. Maybe the Germans have it right and forming overtly racist neo-nazi groups should actually be against the law.

    Each society has to struggle with what the balance is between the "right" to self expression vs. the "rights" of the society as a whole. Just because a bunch of rich old white men sat down and decided whenever it was to amend a piece of paper drawn up by a bunch of rich old white men a little earlier doesn't mean this is somehow a piece of social dogma to be handed down unaltered forevermore. The idea is good and, I believe, should be enshrined. Maybe it needs occasional tweaking, though.
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  • (Score: 2) by wantkitteh on Wednesday March 11 2015, @03:14PM

    by wantkitteh (3362) on Wednesday March 11 2015, @03:14PM (#156100) Homepage Journal

    There is a fairly simple concept that applies here, I think it's called prior restraint - the idea that certain types of speech should be made illegal before the fact rather than prosecuted after the fact - and IIRC (someone help me out here, no time to look this up) it was rejected by Supreme Court. Disclaimer: IANAL, or even American.