Controversial app Yik Yak allows anonymous info, news sharing

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Controversial app Yik Yak allows anonymous info, news sharing

A screencap of the Yik Yak, a geolocation-based social media app that allows users to post anonymously.
 

A screencap of the Yik Yak, a geolocation-based social media app that allows users to post anonymously.  

A screencap of the Yik Yak, a geolocation-based social media app that allows users to post anonymously.  

A screencap of the Yik Yak, a geolocation-based social media app that allows users to post anonymously.  

By Christine Olivo

Students can now reach out to the entire University campus without having to gain friends, or followers, by using the iPhone and Android app, Yik Yak.

Released in November, the anonymous user app Yik Yak was designed by cofounders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington. According to the Yik Yak website , the app serves as a local bulletin board for a user’s area by showing the most recent posts from other users around them, without having to know who posted the message.

“It’s a powerful tool,” Droll said. “Yik Yak can instantly send out a message on a college campus that gets to everyone without needing to be friends or have followers, like Facebook and Twitter. Everyone should have the power to have a voice.”

Droll and Brooks both attended Furman College where they met after becoming fraternity brothers. Droll majored in pre-med, while Brooks originally decided to major in art, and then switched to accounting. Droll took information tech and iPhone programming courses during his schooling, which then lead to the two friends creating their first app, Dicho.

“Dicho, which was short for Dichotomy, was a polling app where you could just ask your friends questions like, ‘Where is everyone going out tonight?’ ‘Who is going to the sports game?’ or, ‘Do you like beer or wine better?’” Droll said.

Droll said the Dicho app fell through, but inspired the two entrepreneurs to have long discussions that led to the development of Yik Yak.

“We both put our careers on hold in the fall and came up with Yik Yak,” Droll said. “Our big vision is to make a hyper local and engaged community. Yik Yak creates an open social network, and on top of that we allow you to look into other communities.”

With the “Peek” feature on Yik Yak, University students are able to look into conversations and messages posted by students from other campuses.

Just as the Dicho app intended to do, Yik Yak offers students a way to ask where everyone is hanging out and what events are going on around campus.

After an anonymous source looking to go out posted, “Lion or KAMs?” on Wednesday night, University students responded.

“Lion bro,” one anonymous student said.

“Lion for sure,” another said.

“KAMS,” the last anonymous responder said.

Although Droll and Buffington intended for Yik Yak to produce an open community for sharing information and making funny social commentary, some users are using the app for inappropriate and bullying purposes.

“This just in: Adam* is indeed a dirty Mexican,” one user posted.

“Would pay good money or sexual favors for someone to take this ANTH 101 test for me… Any takers? #SeriousYak,” an anonymous source posted during finals week.

In situations where a post is highly offensive or targets an individual or group of individuals, the Yik Yak community has the chance to help delete it by either down voting the comment or reporting the post.

“Messages on the app can get deleted automatically if it reaches a ‘like number’ of -5,” Droll said. “If posts are reported we suspend people. After suspensions, we see user behaviors drastically change and realize that behavior is not accepted on this app.”

Droll explained that there are different tiers of suspensions on Yik Yak. After a first report, the user who posted the comment gets suspended for 30 minutes. After a second report, it increases to an hour, and can go up to a three day suspension. If the user is reported after that, they are suspended indefinitely from the app.

“Posts that are usually reported target individuals or have blatant racism in them,” Droll said. “We peek into all campuses and see how it’s being used. The communities who use Yik Yak do a great job of reporting that malicious content.”

Both co-founders confirm that the app sees more bad than good posts, however,  Zack Nola, a member of Yik Yak’s media relations team, added that the app has more than once served as a life-saving tool at other universities.

With Yik Yak’s ability to “voice concerns and issues that people aren’t normally comfortable discussing in a forum where they are identifiable,” Nola said, Yik Yak helped prevent a suicide from happening at the University of South Carolina.

“With Yik Yak you’re allowed to be more open and share things that you don’t want your name attached to,” Droll said. “In South Carolina we had a student posting about suicidal thoughts and kids using Yik Yak were able to find him, reach out to him and basically save his life that night.”

Vanderbilt University Yik Yak users also experienced an incident in which Yik Yak reached across the campus for a positive outcome. A student’s brother had a rare form of lymphoma, and the student was hosting mouth swabs at the school to see if there were any donor matches.

“The student had posted about the mouth swab on Twitter and Facebook but the student got stuck in certain social circles,” Droll said. “But with Yik Yak he was able to share the information with everyone and one day he had 1,100 students show up to get their mouths swabbed.”

Although the app has created concerns for misuse of its intended purposes across universities, including the University of Illinois, Yik Yak has also proven to be an asset to college campuses.

“Any technology can be misused,” Droll said. “Yik Yak’s purpose is to share news, make funny jokes about campus life and have it judged based on content. The app allows for content to be judged only on content. Not the person posting it.”

Christine can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s Note: The name of a student mentioned in a Yik Yak post has been changed to protect their identity.