Kathryn Lindsay
May 17, 2015 7:21 am

It seems like the 2014-2015 school year was truly the year of Yik Yak, the app that allows users in your area to post anonymous statements for anyone within a certain radius to see. While the school year is winding down, the app is still going strong—except when schools like the College of Idaho step in. After the campus’s safety office received no less than seven Yak-related complaints, the school decided to take a closer look at these threats and how to address them.

Those who complained said they felt personally threatened by statements made on the app, and rightfully so. Yik Yak is a breeding ground for racists and sexist comments, so it’s totally understandable to feel unsafe. What to do about it, however, is a little more complicated. The college president, Marv Henberg, gets to the heart of the issue: Yik Yak is anonymous.

If there’s nowhere to point fingers, then the only option is to take down the app entirely. The school has asked Yik Yak to install a “geo-fence,” something they’ve done for middle and high schools, that disables the app in certain areas. If Yik Yak doesn’t respond, the school will simply block the app from their WiFi. While students can definitely find ways around both of these measures, it makes it all the more difficult and, hopefully, not worth the trouble.

The real debate comes down to this idea of free speech. Technically, people should be allowed to say whatever they want, and, unfortunately, that’s the case even if you’re anonymous. But student Matt Vraspir sees it a little differently:

That’s probably the most confusing part about all of this. Would users say sexist and racist things if they had to put their names? And if the answer is no, then what is it about anonymity that brings out the worst in people? Why, when given the option to conceal their identity, do so many people use it for evil? I can keep asking questions all day. What’s most important is that students, all over and at the College of Idaho, feel safe. That’s why it’s good that schools like this are stepping up. Actions speak louder than words, and, fortunately, also Yaks.

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