BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The College of Idaho is trying to ban an app named after the 1950s novelty song, “Yakety Yak,” after some students reported being harassed or bullied through the application.
The app, Yik Yak, uses GPS to create a hyper-local chat room and lets users share their thoughts with people around them while remaining anonymous.
The Idaho Statesman reports that the college’s Student Senate passed a resolution to make the school a Yik Yak-free zone after seven students reported being personally threated on the app.
Student Sen. Matt Vraspir proposed the resolution after speaking with campus counselors.
“There are a few people in every community who will do what they can to harm other students, even at The College of Idaho” said Vraspir, a political economics major from Boise. “So we did what many colleges have done: We got together to make a statement against Yik Yak.”
In March, College of Idaho leaders asked the app maker to install a “geo-fence” to disable the app on campus. Yik Yak offers that service on its website with this caveat: “Ask nicely and we’ll build it for you.” The app makers have installed geo-fences around high schools and middle schools in response to bullying.
So far, officials at the college in Caldwell have not heard back from the company. But if they don’t respond, the college’s IT department will ban the application from its wireless network, college spokesman Jordan Rodriguez said.
Student President Miguel Robles Tapia, a Caldwell native majoring in art and theater, said some of the posts on Yik Yak have been positive, like those encouraging school spirit. But he said the negative comments can overshadow the positive ones.
Yik Yak, which has 1 million downloads and recently won the Fastest Rising Startup Award at the 8th Annual TechCrunch Crunchies event, has been used in some areas to raise money for blood drives and to share requests for aid during emergencies.
Officials with Boise State University and College of Western Idaho say Yik Yak hasn’t been a problem on those campuses. Utica College in New York blocked the app from its wireless networks last year.
Leo Morales, acting executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, said he’s not taking a position on Yik Yak, but he’s keeping an eye on questions that arise from its use.
“What’s at stake here is the broader principle of expression. Even if it’s at a private institution like The College of Idaho, the message the ban on Yik Yak sends could be concerning, particularly at a university where expression should be protected and supported,” said Morales.
Rather than banning an app, he said, there may be ways to deal with the causes of harassment and bullying at colleges and universities “at a deeper level.”