Yik Yak, an anonymous social application, has apparently been delisted since around October of 2014. For those of you who man not know what this means, it simply means that the application will not appear in the Google Play Store’s top application charts. You can still perform a regular search and locate the application in the Google Play Store. The application at one time had reached a peak of 13 in the social rankings while obtaining an overall ranking of 149. Considering the vast amounts of applications on the Google Play Store, that isn’t a bad showing. Why, given its apparent popularity, did the application suddenly become delisted?
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The reason for this is most likely due to the application’s anonymous nature. It would seem that some people have issues conducting themselves properly and made derogatory or violent post to Yik Yak that are less than appropriate for persons of any age or demographic. It would also appear that Google may be involved in the delisting also. The Google Developer Program Policies states that any content advocates “against groups of people based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity” is not permitted to appear on the Google Play Store. This, of course, makes one think as to why it is even allowed on the Google Play Store at all. Yik Yak for their part has pledged to make improvements on moderation and to add better filtering software that will assist in making sure that dangerous, illegal, or defamatory comments do not make the cut. The have also geofenced some school campuses to make sure that the application cannot be used in a school setting, mostly middle and high school, to curtail bullying attempts via the application. It is possible that Google could be waiting to make sure that these reforms are implemented before returning Yik Yak to fully live status. It is unclear if this will also have any implications for Yik Yak porting the application over to Chrome OS.
Many college and Universities have banned the application from the campus citing bullying and the fact the application has been used to threaten not only violence against individual persons, but mass violence as well. Those who support the application note that this application enables users the right to free speech without persecution. While that is certainly a positive thing in most cases, comments that threaten violence, seek to incite fear or that utilize hate speech to bring people into open conflict are not covered by the Constitution. Hopefully, the folks at Yik Yak will find a way to moderate their application more efficiently. Kudos to them for understanding that there is an issue and addressing that issue, something a lot of companies do not do.
In the coming years, we will face this controversy more and more. The need to keep speech free, while ensuring that the needs to keep people and property safe and free from the threat of physical and mental harm remain intact, will be a delicate one. It will require everyone to use a bit of restraint. Just because you can say something without anyone knowing who you are, does not always mean you should say it. A good thing to keep in mind is the time old saying that we were taught as children, “If you can’t say anything nice, do not say anything at all.”