After Harassment, Some Universities May Ban Social App Yik Yak

“It’s a little nerve-wracking for people to read something that they see as harassing or threatening to them. It’s kind of like the line in the horror movie where the person on the phone says, ‘I’m in your house.'”

By Hady MawajdehOctober 29, 2015 9:35 am| ,

Yik Yak is making headlines for all the wrong reasons. A few days ago a student at Texas A&M yakked: “Don’t go to campus… this will be my only warning.” Officials filed an emergency subpoena to track down the poster, who was arrested for making terrorist threats.

The area-specific social media app allows students on campuses to chat in anonymity. It first made news in 2014 when students at Colgate University spewed racist messages (or “yaks”), at classmates. Later that year, students at Drake University took issue with homophobic comments.

Earlier this year, Yik Yakkers sent out sexist yaks aimed at students and faculty at Eastern Michigan University and the University of Mary Washington.

In response, a coalition of 72 feminist and civil rights groups asked the Department of Education to crack down on Yik Yak last week. Peter Schmidt has been writing about this request for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“One dynamic of Yik Yak is that it’s a locally-based app,” Schmidt says. “So it’s a little nerve-wracking for people to read something that they see as harassing or threatening to them. It’s kind of like the line in the horror movie where the person on the phone says, ‘I’m in your house.'”

Schmidt says, if they choose to do so, universities and colleges will not have an easy time trying to enforce the ban.

“There’s going to be all kinds of issues about trying to enforce this,” he says. “First of all you have the First Amendment and the academic tradition of academic freedom, which protects a lot of speech on campus, including a lot of speech that is viewed as offensive or harassing by some people.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.