The following story is the first part of a more extensive piece on the use of Yik Yak at Miami University.
Of the initial 200 campuses that began using Yik Yak, the anonymous posting app, Miami University has been one of the most active in the nation, according to the company’s Lead Community Developer Cam Mullen.
“We see people sharing funny stories about their weekend, a project they’re working on, exams,” Yik Yak Lead Community Developer Cam Mullen said. “There are a million different ways students post on the app.”
Yik Yak espouses itself as the coffee shop corkboard for the digital age, but unlike in the local Starbucks, where people are obligated to follow certain social norms or the barista can remove offensive fliers, Yik Yak’s anonymity promises users a place to post without consequence.
“My perception of the app is that it is little more than a nasty ruse to promote voyeurism and bullying, with absolutely no perceptible offsetting benefit,” Miami University Dean of Students Mike Curme said.
Multiple universities have had high-profile confrontations with the app.
An 18-year-old freshman at Towson University in Maryland was arrested in October 2014 after he threatened on the app to carry out a “Virginia Tech part 2.” In Atlanta, Emory University’s student government passed a resolution denouncing Yik Yak as “a platform for hate speech or harassment” and in March 2014 abuses on the app became so abysmal in Chicago that Yik Yak decided to suspend operations in the area.
Miami University students witnessed a situation like this first-hand in November when Hughes Hall was the target of two bomb threats. Although the investigation is ongoing, authorities said the threats were initially referred to on Yik Yak.
“We realize that with any social app or network there’s a likelihood for bad apples,” Mullen said.
To prevent cyber-bullying, Yik Yak has blocked nearly 85 percent of high schools and middle schools throughout the nation.
“We see a much more democratic use of the app on college campuses,” Mullen said.
When a serious threat is posted on the app, Yik Yak notifies the local authorities. While the app capitalizes on it’s users anonymity, Yik Yak can track posts to specific locations.
“There’s always a trail that we can follow,” Mullen said. “Posting threats on Yik Yak is never a good idea.”