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Everyone’s been buzzing about Yik Yak, the anonymous messaging app that was used by White college students to pose threats and make complaints about the recent protests at the University of Missouri.

Just hours ago, the university announced that its security unit had apprehended 19-year-old Hunter Park, a computer science student that had texted, “I’m going to stand my ground and shoot every Black person I see. We’re waiting for you at the parking lots” from his account.

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But what is it about this app that’s made it so popular among college students? Why is it so widely used even though there’s been numerous other recent, embarrassing and downright scary stories of threats being made against college campuses through students on the app? And how does this app work, anyway?

Yik Yak Basically Works Like This:

Users essentially operate the iOS and Android app like a messaging board that’s organized by each user’s location. It’s probably so popular among college students because it’s a really easy way to exchange campus gossip or to whine and joke about issues on campus while being able to maintain your privacy. Technically, it’s not completely anonymous, since the app takes note of your name, geolocation and any other identifying information even if you opt not to display to the public. Furthermore, the corporation offers the information to law enforcement whenever a user displays criminal activity—hence why Park was arrested this morning.

You can post anything to people in your region, like statuses referring to that beautiful marriage proposal you saw on the street, the final exam you’re not prepared for, or that frat party you want everybody to come out to. Nearby readers can then comment on your status and vote up or down your “yack” without exposing themselves.

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How Long Has Yik Yak Been Around?

Since 2013, and it was founded by two recent college graduates. It’s been doing extremely well ever since the beginning, even though it’s gotten poor reviews for its bad reputation as a lewd, gossipy messaging platform. Yik Yak is ranked as one of the top 30 social media apps since for the past year and it’s valued somewhere between $200 and $300 million.

Tell Me More About Why Yik Yak Is So Infamous

The University of Missouri is far from the only college that has gotten threats through the app. Various schools have gotten warnings of mass shootings, rape, murder as well as racist commentary, sexually explicit references to female faculty and even a leaked tape of a student being raped at schools including: Charleston Southern University, Cal Fresno State, Emory University, Lee University, American University, Florida Atlantic University, University of Mary Washington, Texas A&M University, Clemson University, Kenyon College, Widener University, Towson University and Rowan University.

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What Is Yik Yak Doing To Stop This?

A little sumthin’ sumthin’, but nothing all that impressive. Developers put parenting controls on the app to prevent minors from downloading it and putting “geofences” near schools for children to make the app unavailable in those areas. Yik Yak also now issued flags for abusive content and personal information that might be shared through the messaging app, as well as warnings to users who post inflammatory keywords. But their efforts obviously haven’t done enough to block people from abusing the service.

How Are Colleges Intervening To Stop The Abuse?

At least 12 colleges have tried to block the app from their Wi-fi networks to discourage students from using it, but that doesn’t deter students much either, as they can just use personal phone carriers’ data services to access the app instead.

[SOURCE: NBC, Washington Post, Gizmodo]


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We Researched What Yik Yak Is So You Don’t Have To  was originally published on