The boom in social media over the past few years has ignited the creation of many new apps, one of them being Yik Yak.
The app, which was launched in 2013, creates a space for anonymous social interaction among college campuses.
With a 10-mile location-based restriction, Yik Yak allows its college users to post and respond to others at their specific school … all without sharing their identity.
While the app may have been created with harmless intentions, some are arguing that Yik Yak has essentially become an unregulated public forum that promotes hate speech.
Some Chicago schools have placed bans on the app, and other colleges such as Clemson and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are considering enacting bans.
Several of the schools that have banned Yik Yak have actually done so at the request of students.
Still, there is a great amount of variation in how students feel about the app.
“I have conflicting views when it comes to Yik Yak,” said Eva Alom, ETSU junior studying International Relations and Dance. “I have read some about the bannings at other schools and I can understand why, but I still think it can also be a good outlet for everyone to be heard regardless of who they are or talk about something they don’t have anywhere else to talk about.”
Students have the opportunity to use Yik Yak as a sounding board for ideas, as a means to stay informed or even an advertisement tool.
Many users do utilize the app for these purposes, but others do not.
The app is also commonly used to criticize ethnic or social minorities, make lewd or offensive comments and many other negative behaviors.
“There’s way too much ugly, nasty and hateful things said on Yik Yak, but it could be really awesome,” said Garrett Hudson, ETSU sophomore studying Mass Communication. “It could be a great way to meet new people, make friends and talk about mutual problems between students. There could be so many cool things that could result from Yik Yak, but it’s currently overpopulated with people bragging or asking about sexual exploits, homophobic, racist and all-around hateful remarks.”
The majority of the issues with the Yik Yak app exist due to the secrecy, and therefore lack of responsibility it affords its users.
Other social media apps give users the ability to shield their identities, but not to the extent that Yik Yak does.
“The primary positive impact I can take from Yik Yak is that there are some very humorous posts,” said Phillip Prevost, ETSU junior studying Business Marketing and Management. “All things considered, it really isn’t adding anything of significant value to the community. Anonymity is not necessarily a good thing.”
An argument can be made in support of the Yik Yak app on the grounds of the First Amendment right to free speech.
However, this argument leads into muddled territory due to the factor of anonymity.
Many have begun to ask, to what extent can unattributed speech be protected, or can it be protected at all?