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Why Yik Yak is Plain Nasty

Yik Yak has potential to cause real damage

Anne Parsons
Why Yik Yak is Plain Nasty© 2019 Rasmus Lerdorf Flickr

Yik Yak is asking for trouble, if you ask me. The anonymous messaging app which allows people to post anonymously in a localised feed, has just secured another $10 million. It has followed on the heels of other anonymous messaging apps like Secret, and Whisper, who raised $8.6 million and $36 million consecutively.

Yik Yak, an iOS and Android App, works with a newsfeed on a network, so that the feed is tailored to your specific location. So that, say you were at your college campus, you would be networked into their feed, and be allowed to post anonymously. Also, if you were visiting on someone else’s network, like your friend’s campus, a music festival, you can ‘peek’ into their own feed and see the posts of the people nearby.

The reason why I have a problem with this app is simple. It just isn’t nice. Sure, the creators can rant on about their good intentions, and say that they designed it as a way for students to find out about what’s happening on their campus. But it’s extremely clear that once everything is anonymous,  the app is effectively turned into a digital gossip mill, with very little consequences.

Image: © 2014 Yik Yak

People gossip enough as it is. Twitter is still full of gossipy rubbish, but at least people are accountable. With no accountability, a lot of real, unnecessary damage can be done to people. Already the app has been banned in high schools, after one particularly pointed cyber bullying episode in a high school in Connecticut, which was covered in a New York Magazine article. Apparently the students couldn’t contain themselves when it came to posting vicious comments about each other.

“we didn’t approve of the way that they were using it. They weren’t using it for what we built it for.”

The COO of the app, Brooks Buffington, commented on the debacle in a VentureBeat article saying “they didn’t have the maturity… They’re just not psychologically developed enough to handle our app.” He also said, “we didn’t approve of the way that they were using it. They weren’t using it for what we built it for.” Which is fair enough to say, but it would take about three seconds to figure out what it can be used for. The idea is hardly new. In fact the entire series of Gossip Girl the teen drama series that ran from 2007 to 2012 was based on this idea.

Now that Buffington and co, have left the high school idea behind, let's hope their efforts on expanding throughout college campuses, the epicentres of maturity, will fare better, and is $10 million well spent.


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