In response to the recent controversy over the social app Yik Yak, founders are putting forth efforts to control hateful and inappropriate posts. Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll, former college fraternity brothers, created the Yik Yak phenomenon. The app was created for use on both high school and college campuses, but bullying and hate speech became a concern at many high school campuses.
Potential investors in the app required Droll and Buffington to focus on ways to control the bullying before they would financially support Yik Yak. This led to the restriction of Yik Yak to college campuses only.
The app has also generated a usage age requirement of 18 years old, or 17 with parental consent, and a set of rules that condemns the usage of any form of hateful, derogatory or offensive speech. One of the obvious issues is the enforcement of these policies and regulations.
“The company is completely against bullying and hateful posts being put on Yik Yak,” said Hunter O’Neal, ETSU graduate student in the MBA program. “Twice a semester, they send me a box of promotional supplies and I kind of pass that around and discuss with students how the app works and how to properly use the app to prevent damage.”
With the explosion of Yik Yak on the college scene, it has once again been at the center of many school scandals including those schools near the Ferguson protests and the Oklahoma SAE fraternity.
To provide more damage control, as well as promotional opportunities, a moderation team was put into place at Yik Yak headquarters, along with over 350 college representatives like O’Neal.
O’Neal originally saw an advertisement on twitter recruiting moderators and representatives of the app at college campuses across the country.
These representatives serve the purpose of promoting the proper usage of the app at their specific college and also sifting through some of the posts to look for inappropriate comments.
“We want to focus the app in a direction towards community development that can really benefit the students,” O’Neal said. “We’ve actually seen a decrease in the number of problematic posts on there.”
In contrast to some of the negative attention the app has received, the founders are encouraging the college representatives to share the unique possibilities Yik Yak offers along with tips on appropriate usage.
“It helps you to reach out to the campus and your fellow classmates, your status doesn’t matter, and it isn’t just the popular students that are heard,” O’Neal said. “It gives students a platform to connect on.”
Even with education on how to properly use the app, there are still going to be users who post inappropriate content.
With issues such as a heightened racial tensions and sexual assaults, this poses a legitimate concern for many students and administrators.
“That’s what the moderation team is designed to do: moderate and look through to sort out inappropriate posts,” O’Neal said.
As moderators work to search through the Yik Yak content, they realize that they cannot catch every single offensive or inappropriate post.
This is where they urge users to take it upon themselves to help control the content of the app. After two reports of being inappropriate, the yak is removed.
“Users can moderate the content themselves by using the reporting feature within Yik Yak,” O’Neal said. “The users are ultimately the best source of moderation for the app.”