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March 4, 2014

Abuse Of Yik Yak App Underscores Need For Personal Accountability

Update: March 10, 2014 – Threats found on Yik Yak resulted in back-to-back evacuations of a high school in Marblehead, Massachusetts, as well as the lockdown of a Decatur, Alabama, Middle School and a San Clemente, California High School, according to the Los Angeles Times. Some of the schools that have been subject to threats on Yik Yak have reportedly blocked students from accessing the app directly through campus Internet networks. At least four Chicago-area high schools warned parents about Yik Yak in the past two weeks, according to the Chicago Tribune, and principals have asked parents to delete the app from their children’s devices.

The abuse of a controversial new app that enables users to communicate with complete anonymity highlights the need for some user identification functions and personal accountability.yikyak

The app, Yik Yak, which promotes itself as being a place “to post anonymously or under an alias – you can become the talk of the town and never get discovered,”  has been reportedly abused by students in Roswell, Georgia; North Kansas City, Missouri; and Mobile, Alabama.

In Roswell, a letter was sent to parents of High School students saying that “this app is allowing students to verbally abuse each other, teachers and staff…”

In North Kansas City, one parent found a hateful post about her daughter as well as teachers and administrators.

And in Mobile, two students under the age of 16 were reportedly arrested for using the app to make terroristic threats. Apparently acting separately, each allegedly used Yik Yak to threatened shootings at local high schools. They were arrested on felony charges.

These incidents emphasize the consequences of a lack of any registration requirements, including age verification, or a cursory online identification.

In his latest book Viral Hate, ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman speaks to this issue, noting that “emboldened by anonymity,” individuals are “freely spewing hateful vitriol on the Internet without worrying about repercussions. Lies, bullying, conspiracy theories, bigoted and racist rants, and calls for violence targeting the most vulnerable circulate openly on the web.”

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