What’s All the Yik Yak About Social Media Harassment?

What’s All the Yik Yak About Social Media Harassment?
Susan Dutca-Lovell

With the help of the federal government, seventy-two women's and civil-rights groups are launching a campaign to pressure colleges into protecting students from anonymous, threatening social-media posts. Users are able to post anonymously on apps such as Yik Yak - dialogues that aren't necessarily classroom-appropriate. Discussions sometimes contain racist, sexist and other derogatory content which has led to college arrests due to campus threats. According to the groups' letter to the Office for Civil Rights, colleges fail to monitor the anonymous posts or pursue harassers due to colleges' "vague First Amendment concerns." Whose voice is more important in this situation?

Social-networking platforms that attract online harassment such as Yik Yak, 4chan, and BurnBook have safeguards that can be easily maneuvered by slightly changing works like "rape" to "grape." Community monitoring allows students to "down-vote" such comments for removal but does not prevent the initial posting. Some posts go beyond sexual harassment and threaten students with rape and murder, as seen at the University of Mary Washington. The Office of Civil Rights launched an investigation due to alleged Title IX violations. Colleges tend to avoid responsibility for online harassment on social media platforms mostly because students do not need university servers for access.

Yik Yak's popularity is evidenced by their $60 million in investments and is one of the most profitable social-media applications that allows anonymous discussions. While some organizations such as the Feminists United and the Feminist Majority Foundation are pushing for Yik Yak's ban, Dr. Junco at Harvard University studied the app and would "hate to see colleges prevent students' use of the application, because many of the statements made on it… are positive or affirming."

In your opinion, should Yik Yak and other similar apps be banned or not? Share your thoughtful opinions with us in the comment box below.

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