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Yik Yak, After Complaints From Schools, Suspends Its Service In Chicago 167

Posted by timothy
from the best-kind-of-publicity dept.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Yik Yak, a mobile app that can (among other things) be used for anonymous communications, has drawn complaints from several local schools, who are unhappy that students can use it to bully or pester others. "'The problem, as you might imagine, is that the anonymity is empowering certain individuals to post comments about others that are hurtful, harassing and sometimes quite disturbing,' Joseph Ruggiero, head of the Upper School at Francis W. Parker School in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, wrote in an email to parents last week. ... In light of the controversy, Yik Yak's co-founder said the company was disabling the app in the Chicago area and will attempt to specifically prevent it from being used on high school or middle school grounds."
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Yik Yak, After Complaints From Schools, Suspends Its Service In Chicago

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  • by JBMcB (73720) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @04:14PM (#46441089)

    If only there was some way to prevent people from harassing me on this app. I could uninstall it, or just not use it - naw we'll just pressure the company to disable it in my whole area.

    • by alvinrod (889928)
      What I don't get is that with this app there's actual evidence of the bullying that teachers can address. Sure it's "anonymous" but how much does anyone want to bet that there's enough information available that it wouldn't be too difficult to determine who was sending the messages?

      I suppose it's just easier for them to sweep the problem under the rug rather than actually bothering to deal with it.
      • by DarwinSurvivor (1752106) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @04:41PM (#46441253)
        When it comes to schools, and particularly the "How dare you accuse my little angel" parents, you need to do a hell of a lot more than "determine" which student sent it.
      • by SeaFox (739806)

        What I don't get is that with this app there's actual evidence of the bullying that teachers can address.

        Unless these messages are being sent during school hours from school property, I don't see how teachers have any responsibility in the matter. It's private messaging between people and they have their right to speech. If folks are feeling harassed or defamed, maybe the parents of the kids need to work this out or seek the appropriate legal action -- at which point I'm sure someone will bill them $50 to say "just uninstall the damn app".

        • The whole point of this app is that it's location-based - it connects you to people in the immediate vicinity. So presumably yes, most of this is happening on school property during school hours. On the other hand, that should make it fairly simple for Yik Yak to use geofencing to disable it on school grounds if a school makes a complaint (from what I gather, this is what they're working on right now).
          • by SeaFox (739806)

            The whole point of this app is that it's location-based - it connects you to people in the immediate vicinity.

            Maybe I'm becoming an old fuddy-duddy, but I'm having trouble seeing what use this app is over a regular IM or texting session, unless you're toothing [wikipedia.org] (which wasn't even a real thing).

            People don't want to talk to random strangers nowadays, they want to talk to their friends, regardless of how far away they are. That makes the question of who's around you kinda inconsequential. I thought it had alre

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            The whole point of this app is that it's location-based - it connects you to people in the immediate vicinity.

            So it's like walking up to them and talking, except with a burka covering your face so that you remain anonymous? The app describes itself as a "social wall", but it doesn't seem very social.

      • by Hentes (2461350) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @05:27PM (#46441489)

        Maybe that's the problem. The schools don't like evidence that bullying is going on there.

    • by immaterial (1520413) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @04:48PM (#46441295)

      If only there was some way to prevent people from harassing me on this app. I could uninstall it, or just not use it - naw we'll just pressure the company to disable it in my whole area.

      And when the whole school is abuzz about how you supposedly raped someone behind the gym last Friday, or fucked Mrs. Fingerwood, or like to use your phone to surreptitiously record other dudes in the locker room, or that someone is planning on stabbing you during the lunch period, or whatever... ignoring the app does what for you, exactly? There's plenty of room for debate about how to deal with the issue, but what happens in the app doesn't stay confined to the app so your specific argument is bogus, +5 insightful or not.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by lgw (121541)

        All those sorts of rumors were common in my high school (pre mobile phone), phones have nothing at all to do with it. And nothing ever came of the rumors - gossip was fun, but no one really took it seriously (and in my school, most of the rumors were true).

        Did some precious perfect snowflake get his wittle feelers hurt? Maybe it's time to grow up. Has the new generation somehow lost the natural skepticism towards anonymous rumors? Somehow I doubt it.

        • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Sunday March 09, 2014 @05:20PM (#46441449) Homepage

          Did some precious perfect snowflake get his wittle feelers hurt? Maybe it's time to grow up. Has the new generation somehow lost the natural skepticism towards anonymous rumors? Somehow I doubt it.

          Yes. And they've been teaching kids in the last 15-ish years that "thin skinned" is the only way to be. Don't stand up to bullies, don't defend yourself, let the authorities handle it for you. Oh and of course if you do stand up to defend yourself, it's all your fault automatically no matter what. Because "zero tolerance."

          • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Yeah, it's complete insanity.

            We are working on raising the second generation of "learned helplessness" at this point.

            Try going to a PTA meeting and watching a 40 or 50 year old parent try to talk to a 21 year old mother who was taught never to defend, never to stand up, and never to admit that good people can make terrible mistakes. She's literally incapable of common sense, and the older generation is literally incapable of reaching her.

            "Zero tolerance" is killing our whole culture, one child at a time.

            • You don't want zero tolerance? Then make schools protected from litigation. Because that is why schools have gone with zero tolerance. It protects them from litigation. A sue Happy society had brought this upon us.
          • by russotto (537200)

            Yes. And they've been teaching kids in the last 15-ish years that "thin skinned" is the only way to be. Don't stand up to bullies, don't defend yourself, let the authorities handle it for you. Oh and of course if you do stand up to defend yourself, it's all your fault automatically no matter what. Because "zero tolerance."

            More than 15; at least 35. Of course, "let the authorities handle it for you" was a lie; the authorities would ignore you, punish you, or punish both parties if you did complain to them.

            • by lgw (121541)

              One nice thing in my school (more than 15 years ago) was that you'd get the "takes two to fight" nonsense only if the pattern hadn't yet emerged for that particular bully. The admins at my schools weren't completely stupid, and weren't handcuffed by "zero tolerance".

              I got in one fight at each new school I went to -- winning the fight was not in any way required to remove yourself from the target list for bullies -- and only once was I suspended. That case was very early in the school year.

          • by LoRdTAW (99712)

            You have to stand up to a bully. The "don't sue us" mentality schools have developed have turned our kids into pussies and allowing bullies to roam freely.

            Back in grade school I was on the bowling team and there was this one kid there who thought it was funny to make fun of me because I was Polish. Dumb pollok, polish jokes, talking down to me, etc. It was constant. One day I had enough and I punched that little dick right in his face knocking him over. He started to cry and my mother was there that day and

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            Simply not true. Kids these days are better equipped to deal with bullying than they used to be because schools now talk openly about it and how to deal with it. In the past the biggest problem was that children had no way to deal with the problem, short of getting into fights or other kinds of escalation.

            Standing up to bullies rarely works. They rely on the fact that they have power over their victim, due to physical size or having allies to back them up. It's just a fantasy that victims enjoy, imagining t

            • by lgw (121541)

              Standing up to bullies has been 100% effective in my life. No, revenge and passive-aggressive nonsense doesn't work at all. The first time at any new school a bully tried to intimidate me or shove me around, I started a fight right there. My track record for winning those fight was poor, but that's not important. Bullies are taking the easy path as they see it, and you just have to show you're not on that path.

          • I don't know why you single out the last 15 years, that is what I remember of my early school years forty years ago. Except the reactions were more restrained. When I accidentally jabbed a bully in the eye when defending myself, I merely got a suspension instead of a visit to the local police station. Then the admins backed down when my dad went to the school and read them the riot act. Frankly the admins backing down only increased my contempt for them.
        • No, all of those things I listed are things that potentially require investigation (by the school admin or even by the police), not "hurt feelings." The fact that rumors of rapes and assaults (that you yourself acknowledge are often true) were ignored in your school is not something to be proud of. "Grow up."

          Phones do have something to do with it - these systems allow for easier and stronger anonymity, and make it possible to spread such rumors faster and wider. They are powerful tools - and like any tool
          • Passing a note around the school is only traceable if someone knows who wrote the original note, and someone can recognise my handwriting. Messages posted via a cellphone are a lot easier to trace.
          • by lgw (121541)

            The fact that rumors of rapes and assaults (that you yourself acknowledge are often true) were ignored in your school is not something to be proud of.

            The weren't ignored, they were simply treated with appropriate skepticism by the students. Gossip was entertaining; not anything more. The school admins did look into anything substantive, but they also knew people like to BS and threaten as a way to blow off steam - real violence wasn't preceded by threats!

            these systems allow for easier and stronger anonymity, and make it possible to spread such rumors faster and wider

            Oh, what bullshit. Gossip spreads at the speed of sound anyway, and you never learn the origin.

        • The rumours weren't transmitted more or less instantly all over town, and it had to be done by voice (face-to-face), written note, or landline telephone, all three of which communication methods were much more likely to be overheard or intercepted by parents/teachers.

        • by westlake (615356) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @07:17PM (#46441929)

          gossip was fun, but no one really took it seriously

          I remember taking it seriously --- as the victim of harassment and I remember others being hurt.

          Did some precious perfect snowflake get his wittle feelers hurt?

          This is the language of harassment --- belittling the victim --- and I have never heard it used in any other way.

          • Belittling in general is a bad thing. I do think I understand the parent's point, though, at least to a degree. I was bullied quite a bit in my early years, until I learned how to deal with it. Bullies pick their victims like lions do, they single out the weak and vulnerable. Once I stopped being those things, the bullying went away. Or at least, I stopped acting weak and vulnerable, which deprived them of their entertainment. Yes bullying and malicious harassment are foul things and should not happen. But
          • by lgw (121541)

            Ahh, the cult of the victim. "Oooh, look at me, I'm special, I'm a victim and so should have special privileges". Fuck that noise. If you're the victim of institutional oppression, such as laws or policies (official or otherwise) that discriminate against your race, that's one thing - the system needs to change, and it will take more than you to do it. But if the only damage is "hurt feelings", then, seriously, grow up.

            Yes, it hurts. Welcome to adulthood. Life is a mixed bag. If you do something produ

        • no one really took it seriously (and in my school, most of the rumors were true).

          So SOMEONE took them seriously. Gullible child that you were.

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          Did some precious perfect snowflake get his wittle feelers hurt?

          You must be one of those sadistic psychotic narcissists I read about on slashdot!

          http://science.slashdot.org/st... [slashdot.org]

      • by jxander (2605655)

        There's nothing particularly "techy" about kids starting rumors. And removing one messaging app is certainly not going to stop bullying at schools.

        It's just a symptom, with dozens of core issues that should be treated instead. From better parenting, to accountability, to a better teacher:student ratio ... plenty of ways to address the problem. Deleting an app really isn't one of them, be it from an single student or an entire school.

    • If only there was some way to prevent people from harassing me on this app. I could uninstall it, or just not use it - naw we'll just pressure the company to disable it in my whole area.

      Everyone in school sees these posts. Everyone in school talks about these posts. Uninstalling the app on your kid's phone doesn't solve the problem.

      • Neither does blocking the app in their area.
        • by Aighearach (97333)

          Neither does blocking the app in their area.

          Actually, yes. Yes it does. Heavy-handed it may be. But the app is an anonymous way for people to communicate based on physical location instead of some sort of network ID . So banning it in a location absolutely solves the narrow problem of the app being used in this way.

  • by Buck Feta (3531099) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @04:19PM (#46441113)
    The trend towards de-anonymizing the Web (and other mobile communications), frankly, sucks. I don't want to sign into Facebook to comment on a Detroit Red Wings news article. I don't want to sign into Google+ to comment on a youtube video (only to have them tell me my name isn't real). I imagine and fear the day when our global unicast IPv6 address is tied to our DNA or some other biometric. Governments don't want us to be anonymous, to communicate without knowing who it is that's sending and who is receiving.
    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @04:32PM (#46441219)

      The current decline in anonyminity isn't driven by government. It's driven by corporate interests, for the sake of more efficient marketing and advertising.

      Government and business interests can both oppress people, but in different ways and for different reasons. Sometimes they collude, and then we are screwed.

      • by CRCulver (715279)

        The current decline in anonyminity isn't driven by government. It's driven by corporate interests.

        It is also driven by content creators who are sick of seeing the space they set aside for reader comments torn apart by trolls and Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory [penny-arcade.com] rudeness. A site admin dropping in a Facebook-authenticated comment system isn't doing so in order to make lots of money for Facebook in selling your data, he's doing it because he's heard that forcing a modicum of self-identification cuts down in fl

        • by gIobaljustin (3526197) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @05:01PM (#46441335) Homepage

          It also makes the quality of the comments worse (trivial, inane garbage), doesn't actually fix the 'problem' (it's not even a problem to begin with), and allows for easy tracking. What a great idea.

        • by Raenex (947668)

          A site admin dropping in a Facebook-authenticated comment system isn't doing so in order to make lots of money for Facebook in selling your data, he's doing it because he's heard that forcing a modicum of self-identification cuts down in flame wars.

          Or he's a lazy slackass that thinks "everybody uses Facebook".

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          as a developer I can tell you that the main reasons that facebook-auth is used for comments are:

          * Site doesn't have to require sign-up, or ask users to trust the site
          * Site doesn't have to protect user data
          * Social Networking checkbox is now checked
          * Free advertising for your site on the facebook pages of people who post comments
          * Can save money using drop-in comment system, you don't have to integrate a signup plugin and a comments plugin, or buy an integrated solution

          Most of these sites would be using a c

    • by T-Bucket (823202)

      Its true, I wouldn't want my name attatched to the Wings either.

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      What I'm curious about is the use-case for this sort of anonymity. In the case of slashdot or something, this is like using anonymous coward to post. Why is that even good? Here it is only good because sometimes people without accounts say something useful, sometimes even people involved in the posted stories. But in general, a slashdot user id is already as anonymous as you want it to be. Never post your name, and nobody will know it. What is the use case for an extra level of anonymity? Generally, it is t

      • What is the use case for an extra level of anonymity?

        Because people don't want an account? Because they don't want random assholes to be able to locate their comments and mod them down because they disagree with them? I don't know people's exact reasons, and no one needs to give you one, either. Anonymity is a good thing in and of itself.

        Generally, it is to say something offensive that you're not willing to stand up and say openly, even with your pseudonym.

        You're a fuckin' nigger. Wow, so hard.

        If you haven't figured it out already, usernames don't do shit.

  • by Hognoxious (631665)

    Just seen on a wall at Francis W. Parker School:
    Joseph Ruggero is teh faggert.

  • Bullies (Score:3, Informative)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @05:04PM (#46441363) Homepage Journal

    Francis Parker School in Chicago is where the 1% send their kids. So, there is a substantial number of entitled little turds who have learned from their parents that bullying is one of the perks of being rich and powerful.

    It does not surprise me that this has happened at that school.

    I have first-hand experience there and far poorer inner city schools, and there is behavior at FP that you would never see in the inner-city school.

    • You are probably right about the rich kids/entitlement disorder link,

      but I knew some poor kids when I was growing up who could bully with the best of them.

      It extends across socioeconomic lines, and it smells like the childish rehearsal of Darwinian nature for the adult mating competition.

  • by ThatAblaze (1723456) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @05:22PM (#46441463)

    So someone anonymously said something. It's not like that's never been done before. It's not like that's a new issue in society. Haven't we come up with better ways to deal with this by now?

    For instance, I can post anonymously right now on this very platform. How is that wrong?

    If schools didn't act so stupidly they wouldn't have to be funded by corporations.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Kids have little impulse control. This why 10 year old students are not allowed to bring toys to class, and are usually told to go to bed without distractions. Increasingly though older students are demanding to use their communication devices 24 hours a day. This does cause a problem because the lack of impulse control means that most kids, especially teems who parents are increasingly unable to control every aspect of their lives, end up spending much of the night online, sometimes being bullied, to the
      • I think facebook has not fallen so fast because it's funded by advertisers. Those advertisers still don't have any viable alternatives. It will take them jumping ship before the bubble will pop.

    • by mikael (484)

      For instance, I can post anonymously right now on this very platform. How is that wrong?

      At the first level, slashdot will log all the IP addresses of all submissions - that's part of the general infrastructure of discussion forums. At a second level someone can contact the maintainers if anything offensive has been written. Then at the third level, they can hire a lawyer and request the IP address of the person submitting the comment. From there they can escalate the complaint with the originating ISP, the

      • Or we could all just grow up a little bit. If our kids aren't mature enough to handle anonymous threats then they need to learn how to.

        I know that if anyone were to threaten me as an AC I wouldn't go so far as to get their IP tracked. If I did anything it would probably be to laugh in their face (metaphorically speaking).

    • Tax dollars used to fund schools by a mechanism called "taxes."

      Schools are stupid because we've got stupid people on school boards being elected on wedge issues. The Corporate funded schools aren't any better.

  • by jbmartin6 (1232050) on Sunday March 09, 2014 @05:25PM (#46441479)
    Good luck eliminating every piece of bad behavior the kids can come up with. And good luck to the hothouse flowers when they are pushed out into the real world. This belief that it is a good idea to punish everyone because there are a few bad apples is one of the many things I hated about school, and continue to hate about people who want to apply it everywhere else.
    • And good luck to the hothouse flowers when they are pushed out into the real world

      "My boss is bullying me! He said I'm lazy and I need to work harder."

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      Good luck eliminating every piece of bad behavior the kids can come up with.

      Gee, we can't stop all murders, so why try? Derp!
      That is a really pathetic straw-man. Surely you can do better than, "we can't stop everything bad so why stop anything."

      Also, are you absolutely sure that not having this app at school "punishes everyone?" It might actually be a distraction to all the kids who are focused on learning at school. In fact, it might ONLY punish kids who don't care about school, even while they are there, and care more about bullying other kids. Surely the kids who are engaging in

      • Gee, we can't stop all murders, so why try?

        More like, "Gee, there are literally millions of ways that kids bully each other with or without technology, so why bother blocking this one method they use when it only enables them to say mean things to one another?"

        "Derp"? You're a moron for even saying that. What a piece of human garbage you are.

      • Your analysis is flawed. Murder is an action, not a tool. The subject article is about playing "whack a mole" and banning a tool instead of punishing the action. There are an infinite number of other tools. Much like the doctors in Britain who were proposing that sharp knives be banned since a small minority of knife owners used them to stab others. And for part two, kids who care about school will do well with or without this specific app being available. And those who don't care will not care regardless o
    • by Solandri (704621)
      I would actually go even further than that. This Yik Yak app isn't causing the problem. The problem already existed - some kids think belittling and harassing other kids is ok. Yik Yak just gave them a means to carry out what they were thinking of doing without fear of consequences. It's like if you were to survey a thousand people if they thought Blacks were lazy, almost nobody would say yes. But if you asked them anonymously, a significantly larger percentage would say yes. The former survey may mak
  • "'The problem, as you might imagine, is that the anonymity is empowering certain individuals to post comments about others that are hurtful, harassing and sometimes quite disturbing,'

    I'd rather have this happen than have the police state alternative. Kids need to learn to deal with bullying on their own terms and today's PC society won't allow it. I think most of the real damage from bullying comes from politically correct policy and faculty, who make it nearly impossible for the underdog kids to hash it out with their peers without the threat of all kinds of imposed 'consequences'. It doesn't take much to set off these PC types, so the arena is quite limited indeed. No wonder kids

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      As an adult I don't have to deal with "bullying" on my own terms; if somebody manages to lie about me in a way that harms my reputation, there is a legal remedy for that.

      And the business is not going to "shut down." They're going to disable the (location-based) service when the location is a school. That makes sense. Schools are full of children, who are supposed to be there to learn.

      They can still use the service in a more appropriate place, such as a park, or concert, or the mall, where it actually makes

      • by epyT-R (613989)

        With your example, unless you're extremely wealthy, no, not really. Most people cannot afford to sue over every slight, though many are trying these days. Libel/slander are not the only ways adults bully each other, but if we (re)learn to let more of it to roll of our backs, we'd be better off as a society because we wouldn't feel the need to wield big brother/big sister against each other out of passive-aggressive spite.

        I see no reason why being a school gives them some kind of special dispensation to di

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          If you "can't afford to sue" then that right there proves that your reputation was not harmed in the way that adults care about; financially. If your reputation was in fact harmed financially, you can probably find a lawyer to take the case on contingency.

  • You need it installed to receive communications, don't you? If you're hurt by what you see, why not uninstall it?

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