Apps that mask or cloak your activities are increasing in popularity. Whisper, an anonymous secret-spilling app has become somewhat of a Silicon Valley darling and hot topic. But with a secretive online presence, the possibility for abuse is high. In fact, Yik Yak has been abused to the point that school campuses are banning its use.
Yik Yak began with benevolent aims — to provide a localized social network that allowed college students to share information and raise complaints anonymously. The app, which uses GPS technology to connect users automatically, spread quickly through university campuses. Over time, it trickled down to high schools and middle schools.
When middle and high-school students got their hands on it, the app started to morph into a cyberbullying tool. According to CNN, students in Chicago have been bullying rape victims. In Southern Calif., messages posted to the app have caused campus shut downs, as the messages have been interpreted as bomb threats.
Yik Yak is aware of the problem, and has taken to creating GPS-based geo-fences around schools, so the app is inoperable on campuses. “It looks like you’re trying to use Yik Yak on middle or high school grounds. Yik Yak is intended for people college-aged and above. The app is disabled in this area,” is the warning students will see, according to Yik Yak co-founder Brooks Buffington.
The app is rated for users 17 and over, and schools are being geo-fenced, so Yik Yak is clearly being proactive to try and stay ahead of what seems to be a growing problem. Cyberbullying has caused huge problems for teens in recent years, with several suicides that were attributed to interactions that tool place on social networks.
The more careful Yik Yak is more likely it is to survive. Once it gets its website back up.