Over 80,000 people sign a petition calling for Yik Yak to change its policies or be banned from the App Store after a brave young women told her story
Giving people the opportunity to talk about others anonymously online isoften a recipe for bullying. Yik Yak is an app where users in the same 5-mile radius can write anonymous posts, which are then up or down voted by other users.
Yik Yak is usually used to write wry jokes and observations about the area where people live, and is often used at universities for students to exchange banter. But Elizabeth Long experienced the dark side of the app when she was anonymously bullied after attempting suicide.
When she was 17 years old, the app was used against her by students from her school, after a failed suicide attempt.
Messages such as “Elizabeth Long needs to stop b******g about how she almost killed herself and go ahead and do it” were posted after she returned to school, and they left her distraught.
Teachers soon stepped in, saying that anyone who used the app at school would get detention.
However, the damage was done, and it is impossible to completely stop students posting online – especially once they’ve left the school gates.
Ms. Long told The Mirror: “I was really sad when I first read the Yaks about me because after going through such a dark time, I felt like I was really doing something positive with my experience by sharing it with other people, but others just used it against me.
“I ended up going to my school councillor crying about the Yaks, but they said that there was really nothing that they could do because so many other people were being bullied over it and the app had control of everything.”
So, she set up a petition asking the app to either more closely regulate the posts – or for the App Store to ban it completely.
Two years on, Ms. Long is a student at the University of Mississippi, and the app has ballooned in popularity.
However, in recent weeks, the petition has gained tens of thousands more signatures and is starting to garner real traction.
The petition says: “The app claims that it is not meant to be used by people under 17, but there are no safeguards to prevent younger users from downloading the app, and I know from personal experience how popular the app is with younger teens.
“The app claims to not tolerate bullying or threats, but no action is being taken to remove threatening or harmful posts, or suspend users who write them.
“That is why I am calling on the inventors of the app to create a stronger set of community standards and employ a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and threats — if they don’t, we want the app removed from the Apple App Store and Google Play immediately.
“Please join me to tell the creators of this app, as well as the users who have abused it, that we will not tolerate bullying, no matter what.”
She even met with the founders of the app, Brooks Buffington and Tyler Droll, in December last year, to talk about bullying and the app, after she set up a charity called Life Worth Living.
“I left the meeting feeling great about the future of Yik Yak, and the bullying that was happening on the app,” she said.
“However nine months later I’m realizing they were full of empty promises and really just wanted to get my petition removed, which will not be happening.”
Yik Yak try to stop teens from using it, by setting up ‘Geofences’ around schools, which means that within a certain area, the app is disabled. There is more information on that here.
The Telegraph has contacted the founders for comment, and they are yet to respond.