Why Is Everyone in Love With YikYak Again (and Why It’s Not Entirely Anonymous)

I’m sure everyone has already joked , but I can’t help myself : Yakity Yak, YikYak are back .

The anonymous social media platform that hit college campuses at a hot moment from 2013 to 2016 is back (if you live in the US). It is now available on the iOS App Store . More shocking than the sudden return of YikYak: people are in awe. Who knew so many people were nostalgic for an app that lets you argue, gossip and digitally call back to other users?

However, this new YikYak is taking action to prevent malicious content that destroyed the previous version of the app nearly five years ago.

What is YikYak?

If you’ve never used YikYak, this is how it works. Users can post anonymous messages based on location within the app, and those messages can be viewed by any other user within five miles of where the message was originally posted. Other users can vote up and down, but while you can see where the post was posted, you never know who posted it.

On paper, YikYak was a novelty on social media, especially if you’re in a very social place like a college campus. But like all social media apps, especially anonymous social media apps, YikYak ended up becoming a problem in practice.

Many have used it as a platform to intimidate, harass, and shame their peers, while others have used it to incite hatred. YikYak’s original privacy policy and community guidelines were fairly lax, so malicious content flourished. Things got so bad that YikYak did not allow users to install or access the app while on campus. In the end, due to a shrinking user base, constant bad press and calls to ban the app, YikYak eventually closed in 2016. Until he was suddenly revived.

New principles of the YikYak community

YikYak is now under a new owner who wants the app to be “a radically private network that connects you to the people around you. No terms (or labels) are attached. ” The app is focused on location-based anonymous messaging, but the new owners have laid out stricter rules for the app, which they hope will keep its users safe.

The biggest change is the YikYak policy: “One hit and you’re gone.” Anyone found to have violated the terms set out in the Community Guardrails will be permanently blocked. This includes doxing, bullying, bigotry, and fraud. The app also has easy-to-reach links to safety tips and expert information on travel sharing, COVID-19, elections, suicide and self-harm prevention, and more.

The point is, even with tighter security measures, we have no idea if the new YikYak team is ready to take on the moderation challenges inherent in an anonymous local platform like this. So far, it seems that the burden of control over the content falls on users.

Users can also report messages containing offensive or harmful material and the team will review them, although who knows how long this process might take. Likewise, if a post receives at least -5 “points for”, it is removed from the feed. However, these messages can be easily captured and shared elsewhere before they are deleted.

YikYak also does not prevent anyone from pretending to be someone else or from misleading other users with false information and fraud. Attackers can also spoof their GPS location and publish messages remotely around the world. All of these examples clearly fall under new violations of YikYak’s Terms of Service, but these violations must be addressed before offensive posts are removed and users are blocked.

Honestly, these new rules are a step in the right direction and will hopefully make the app more enjoyable to use. But even if this new incarnation of YikYak is better at preventing abuse and hate speech in an app, there are other security risks associated with using such a platform.

Why YikYak is n’t really anonymous

Although you can post anonymously, YikYak is not actually anonymous. The app does not use personally identifiable information, but you cannot use YikYak without sharing your phone number, GPS location, device ID, and certain network information. The app may also collect data from social networking sites, such as your Facebook likes and website cookie data. This data is used to track your location in the app, user behavior and analytics, and to sell ads.

YikYak states that this data is safely stored in the United States, but as we’ve seen many times over the years, security breaches can happen to any company. If YikYak’s servers are ever compromised, your data may fall into the wrong hands.

Likewise, since posts appear geographically, someone could theoretically try to guess who posted them and when. Someone can also access your YikYak activity history if they have physical access to your device. These are unlikely scenarios, to be honest, but not impossible .

How to use YikYak safely

The best way to be safe on YikYak is to simply not use it. If so, here are some simple tips to keep yourself safe:

  • Do not post personally identifiable information and be careful when and where you post.
  • Be sure to report bullying, harassment, and other abuses.
  • Be especially careful when dealing with other people.
  • You should also review the new YikYak Community Plans , Privacy Policy and Terms of Service .

Oh, and don’t let the app’s apparent anonymity turn your head. If you don’t speak to someone in person or don’t want it to be said about you, don’t post it. And not only because nearby users can trace your comments back to you; It’s just better to be a decent person for others. The fastest way to disappear YikYak again is to fill it with dirty, hateful posts.

[ NPR ]


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