New “Yik Yak” App: Ground Zero for Anonymous Cyberbullying?

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 2.49.47 PMAs an avid fan of technology and news junkie who can’t stay off my iPhone, iPad and laptop, I am constantly in awe of the seemingly limitless reach and constant development of apps to make life more efficient, seamless and instantaneous. One can book a car rental, bank, find a restaurant and read the news with a few quick swipes.

The downfall, however, with this revolutionary instant gratification, is that it can lead to a slippery slope into a dark alley of ostracizing using the new app With a few words – not necessarily fact-based – the whispers, the stares and the turned backs in the hallways – and even worse, the giggles, taunts and finger-pointing – can lead to humiliating episodes for young people. Already, the app has been banned in a number of high schools across the country due to the often-toxic nature of the anonymous postings leading to devastating rumors and hurt feelings. And at times, the anonymous nature of the app has lead to more sinister motives, such as a threat to shoot up a school or threats of physical harm and violence to other students.

In an interview with, founders Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll explain that YikYak works as a “virtual bulletin board” for any 1.5 mile radius. They aspire to rival or even outperform Facebook and Twitter, with an estimated 250,000 users mostly in the South.

“Currently, Yik Yak’s intended audience is college students but we see interest among communities throughout the U.S. and expect that list to grow,” says Yik Yak co-founder Brooks Buffington. “Whether it’s attendees at a specific event or citizens in Ukraine during the current crisis, we see many positive uses for individuals to receive important, real-time information from those around them.

When asked about the ban of Yik Yak by several schools, Buffington replies: “We recognize that with any social app or network, there is the likelihood for misuse from a small group of users, so we have built specific tools to prevent this from happening. We have geo-fenced an estimated 130,000 primary and secondary schools and require users to be 17 years of age or older to utilize the application. Additionally, the app monitors conversations and posts, and any negative or harmful behavior will result in the respective user being blocked, or altogether banned from future use. We continue to build out this technology to ensure positive interaction, but we are also finding that as more users sign up and start using the app, each community begins to self regulate itself in a positive way.”

Time will tell how that will work.

Jenny Kefauver

Virginia PolitiChick Jenny Kefauver is a longtime public relations professional who owns JK Public Relations. She works with a variety of clients including New York Times best-selling author Scott McEwen, author and investigative reporter Richard Miniter, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman/Killology Research Group, Southeastern Legal Foundation, Center for America, the American Media Institute, and others. She has been writing for since November, 2013 and has covered a wide variety of topics including parenting, politics, and a variety of others. She tweets @prmommydc.

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