Monday, August 10, 2015

The Wild West of Anonymous Social Media - YikYak

By David Simms, Senior Contributor
The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

The relatively new social media App known as YikYak has been mired with controversy nearly since it began. Known as the “Wild West of anonymous social media,” this App allows users to send and receive anonymous messages to others within a 10 mile radius – perfect for campuses such as universities which is where it now thrives. Despite architects of the medium providing “geo-fencing” for most middle and high schools from using the App, it remains wildly popular, particularly on university grounds. 

YikYak claims to use extensive filtering techniques to screen out inappropriate words and content, including offensive slurs, threats, and now even pictures of people, however despite this much hurtful damaging content continues to get through. Consider the recent case out of the United States at Eastern Michigan University where several female professors unknowingly were the brunt of a storm of vicious demeaning comments among freshmen students enrolled in their classes. According to the university, there is no recourse due to the complete anonymity of the perpetrators, a characteristic trademark of the App.  

Simply bannig the use of YikYak would seem a logical combatant to the problem. This has unfortunately proven to be rather difficult as the argument of free speech rears its ugly head. In fact, it shows no sign of slowing down but instead is experiencing explosive growth and is crossing into the borders of other countries including the UK. Based on negative reactions of many as a result of YikYak use, its reputation precedes itself and is finding keen resistance particularly from British educational institutions albeit this appears to be of no matter.  The new social media is proving to be unstoppable in its popularity with the younger generation and along with that come increased risks.