Everyone’s been buzzing about Yik Yak, the anonymous messaging app that was allegedly used by White college students to pose threats and make complaints about the recent protests at the University of Missouri.
Just hours ago, the university announced that its security unit had apprehended 19-year-old Hunter Park, a computer science student that had texted, “I’m going to stand my ground and shoot every Black person I see. We’re waiting for you at the parking lots” from his account.
Later, a second suspect, 19-year-old Connor Stottlemyre, was arrested for allegedly writing, “I’m gonna shoot any black people tomorrow, so be ready.”
But what is it about this app that’s made it so popular among college students? Why is it so widely used, in spite of numerous accounts of threats being made against college campuses on the app? And how does this app work, anyway?
Yik Yak Basically Works Like This:
Users essentially operate the iOS and Android app like a messaging board that’s organized by each user’s location. It’s probably so popular among college students because it’s a really easy way to exchange campus gossip or to whine and joke about issues on campus, while still being able to maintain your privacy. Technically, it’s not completely anonymous, since the app takes note of your name, geolocation and other identifying information, even if you opt not to display to the public. Furthermore, the corporation offers the information to law enforcement whenever a user displays criminal activity—hence why Park and Stottlemyre were arrested Wednesday.
You can post anything to people in your region — like statuses referring to that beautiful marriage proposal you just saw on the street, the final exam you’re not prepared for, or that frat party you want everybody to come out to. Nearby readers can then comment on your status and vote your “yack” up or down without exposing themselves.
How Long Has Yik Yak Been Around?
The app has been around since 2013, when it was founded by two recent college graduates. It’s been doing extremely well ever since the beginning, even though it’s gotten poor reviews for its bad reputation as a lewd, gossipy messaging platform. Yik Yak is ranked as one of the top 30 social media apps since for the past year and it’s valued somewhere between $200 and $300 million.
Why Is Yik Yak So Infamous?
The University of Missouri is hardly the only college that’s received threats through the app. Various schools have gotten warnings of mass shootings, rape, murder as well as racist commentary, sexually explicit references to female faculty and even a leaked tape of a student being raped at school. The list includes: Charleston Southern University, Cal Fresno State, Emory University, Lee University, American University, Florida Atlantic University, University of Mary Washington, Texas A&M University, Clemson University, Kenyon College, Widener University, Towson University and Rowan University.
What Is Yik Yak Doing To Stop This?
Well, to be honest, their response has not been all that impressive. Developers put parenting controls on the app to prevent minors from downloading it, as well as “geofences” near schools for children to make the app unavailable in those areas. Yik Yak has also implemented flags for the share of abusive content, personal information or inflammatory keywords. But their efforts have obviously not done enough to block people from abusing the service.
How Are Colleges Intervening To Stop The Abuse?
At least 12 colleges have tried to block the app from their Wi-fi networks to discourage students from using it, but that doesn’t deter students much either, as they can just use personal phone carriers’ data services to access the app instead.