Yik Yak: Anonymity Doesn’t Mean Without Consequence

The anonymous messaging service has been used to make bomb threats and threaten mass shootings. But Yik Yak does not condone such activity and will cooperate with law enforcement if requested.

Privacy is a double edged sword on social media. While many value their anonymity, some see anonymity is a way for people to hide from the consequences of their actions. However, anonymity doesn’t always mean untrackable, and in the case of the Virginia Tech student who used Yik Yak to threaten “another 4.16 moment,” being able to track down users is a good thing.

According to Collegiate Times, Kiung Moon posted a threat to Yik Yak on April 28, noting that it was “just a warning (sic).” Moon turned himself in to Virginia Tech police the next day and is being charged with Harassment by Computer.

This isn’t the first time Yik Yak was used to make threats. Last year, there were two bomb threats and a threat of mass shooting, all resulting in police involvement. Still, at least for now, Yik Yak anonymity is pretty limited. Between GPS coordinates and timestamps, it’s not hard to use the metadata collected through the app to track users down.

In the case of Moon, police were already investigating his metadata before he turned himself in. Yik Yak also warns users against using threatening language and according to the legal policy, works with law enforcement when posted content poses threat or “imminent harm.”

The reality is that it’s impossible to eliminate bad actors from any social media service. Twitter has been trying various ways to address its troll problem, and YouTube provides tools for creators to moderate comments. In the end, Yik Yak is not responsible for the behavior of its users; that responsibility is on the individual.