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Manfull: Yik Yak

BY ERIN MANFULL | OCTOBER 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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You know that age-old phrase, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”?

The phrase that was iterated one too many times when you made fun of someone in kindergarten?

Well it seems as if we, as a college campus and a society in general, have completely neglected to abide by this simple rule since the invention of Yik Yak.

Yik Yak, an anonymous app aimed at college campuses, allows people to post things that are happening in location-specific areas. However, this app isn’t necessarily being used for its original intentions of reporting live and updated news.

The top two rules in the Rules & Info tab on Yik Yak clearly state, “You do not bully or specifically target other Yakkers,” but these two rules seem to be completely overlooked, including on the University of Iowa campus.

If you take a few minutes to read some of the posts, the question of whether or not Yik Yak is a new platform for cyber-bullying instantly arises.

“Yik Yak is just the new version of the anonymous cyber-bully,” UI student Megan Hackman, 21, said. “Although admittedly funny at times, some of it was so over the line that I ended up deleting it.”

When I had the app, recently deleted, I would find myself in awe as I scrolled through hundreds of anonymous postings that were absolutely bashing greek life, girls, and entire minority groups as a whole. It was mind-blowing to me that people felt so confident sharing these intimate opinions, all because they were hiding behind the veil of anonymity.

But then it hit me. Being able to say what you want, no matter how offensive it may be, is our basic First Amendment right. In Associate Professor Lyombe Eko’s Media Law class, we’ve been reminded countless times “the right of the speaker is more important than the feelings of the listener.”

Although I still firmly believe that our society needs a reminder on basic kindergarten rules and innocence, it wouldn’t hurt to be informed of our First Amendment rights.

People, me included, are quick to jump at the throats of Yik Yak and those who post on the app. At first glance, it’s hard not to — the posts are pretty harsh. However, after taking a step back, you are allowed to share your own personal opinions at the risk of stirring up emotions in the reader. The First Amendment was created to protect unpleasant speech. As long as there is no defamation of a private individual or libel (written slander), or false information inciting danger, Yakkers are technically free to post their own opinions and thoughts.

Unless there happened to be a miracle in store for the societal future, I don’t see anonymous postings ceasing anytime soon. For me, I’ll stand by Eko’s teaching and what he’s told us many times about the First Amendment,  “I may not agree with what you’re saying, but I’ll fight until the death for you to say it.”

But then again, how hard is it just to say something nice every now and then?


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