The role of Yik Yak in a free society



“The point is that anonymous speech can be a good thing, and often there are powerful entities out there that want to stop it.”

Unless, of course, those powerful entities are incumbent politicians, and the anonymous speech is supporting their electoral opponents. Then it’s a crime, right? Right?

If it’s bought and paid for, maybe.

Dontcha need to be a little more careful at BB about listing those fundamental source documents?

I mean, there are people paying attention, and they’ll put 2 and 2 together, y’know?

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The examples you choose are curiously unsympathetic. Anonymity protects much more than scurrilous ad-hominem remarks about the sexual proclivities of someone you don’t like. Its real value is that it protects unpopular thought: a key point in a conformist society like ours. The ability to come forward anonymously and challenge what “everyone knows” is essential to society’s self-examination. Without it, the challenge simply results in the torches and pitchforks being brought out and another victim being led to the pillory, if not the stake. ‘Publius’ of the Federalist Papers did not speak anonymously for fear of royal reprisal: the American Revolution was won. Rather, it was so that the ideas of Hamilton, Madison and Jay could be considered apart from their often volatile personalities.

  1. Not sure how anonymous the only woman at a company of five can be. But I guess I get your point.

  2. The author attempts to anticipate my one argument which is that students give up certain rights. Yeah, sometimes the authorities can power trip (or be seen to teenagers to be power tripping), but it is a given that kids don’t have unlimited rights while in school. Mostly, this revolves around disruption. A student may have a free speech right to call their teach a bitch or an asshole, but that is disruptive and disturbs the others who are there to learn. Likewise, while the author mentions that YikYak has been disruptive, I don’t think mere mention is good enough. I think it’s pretty clear that YikYak has only one purpose at school and that is disruption. And that seeks to undermine the entire premise of the article which is, “Hey, guys - free speech is important even if it involves kids being jerks.” Except it doesn’t when it’s being disruptive.

I would also argue that, although it is a dangerous and extremely slippery slope, that there seems to be (based on reporting) a lot more teens that commit suicide over this bullshit than adults. Teens have brain issues going on that make them think that being called a (whatever pejorative) as a 16 year old will keep them from being awesome as a 30 year old. They almost literally aren’t capable of conceiving of the future as some medical literature seems to have reported. And, therefore, I also think that this type of speech should have more consequences when directed at teens. Really, what purpose is served for freedom when someone is calling someone a slut merely because everyone’s a teen and many teens are assholes? (By the way, I write this as someone who was mercilessly bullied throughout nearly all of his life until college)


Just wanted to comment on your bullying comment. I too was bullied as a youngster, and a friend of mine recently had a discussion about the issue. I think maybe the solution to bullying problems is not to curb free speech, but to have school environments which doesn’t facilitate bullying in the first place. My friend’s argument was that kids are sometimes mean, but they aren’t mean in a vacuum. They learn it from somewhere to treat others like shit. And schools often back up the more powerful elements at school. I don’t think it’s curbing free speech to say that treating people like shit is unacceptable. Free speech doesn’t mean that you can say what you like without consequences. We wouldn’t say hate speech is acceptable–persumably a guy wearing a shirt with the n word on it would be told to change his shirt. Why is targeting individuals who don’t “fit in” any more acceptable than that?

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I may be wrong, but isn’t hate speech actually allowed? Like the Neonazis or KKK that are allowed to have parades? I think free speech is not the same as consequence-free speech. See many people who have lost their jobs over speech.

I still think YikYak has no place in school. There will always be bullies no matter what you do. There are always sociopaths, after all. Not that all bullies are sociopaths, but what I’m saying is that you can’t root out all evil just by changing the environment.

What’s sad is that in my experience it’s only ever been violence or the threat of violence that has stopped bullying. In elementary school I finally snapped and broke the nose of the kid who was bullying me for the whole school year. He never bullied me again. (I don’t remember this, but my parents certainly do as they were called to the principal’s office. My bullying was well-documented so there were no consequences for me) In middle school I had to write a letter to the principal saying I would go berserk on my bully if they didn’t do something about it - after repeatedly not getting any help. The bully was moved to another class and we never interacted again. In high school, this guy thought I was gay (I’m VERY MUCH not, not that being gay would have made it right) and was picking on me for that. Eventually I threatened to beat the shit out of him and he stopped right away.


I wouldn’t recommend this. Sometimes you end up with a group of people beating the shit out of you because no one individual wants to take the chance that you might get the better of them. Injuring one of them just makes them more careful to make sure that they are in a group when dealing with you.

(I don’t know how survived school. I do know why I have an ‘interesting’ collection of mental illnesses though.)


Rotstein seems to be avoiding an important point. Anonymity in general is valuable. Services that facilitate leaks and whistleblowers are valuable. Yik Yak in particular is pretty much purpose-built for nasty gossip, and offers very little redeeming social value in exchange.


Oh, I agree with you. I spent nearly the entire semester (or year or w/e time period depending on the abuse) ignoring it. Violence begets violence and I hate violence. But sometimes people snap. So don’t be a bully.

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A more eloquent way of stating what I my first comment said, bravo! I certainly have a problem with keeping things concise.

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I don’t understand this mindset. That’s like saying there will always be racists or misogynist, so why try to change anything. It seems rather defeatist to me.

There was the problem right there. It was not your responsibility, you were a kid. It was the SCHOOLS responsibility to create a safe learning environment for you. Period.

And to be fair this is a private school, but my daughter’s school has a no tolerance policy on bullying. First, they want the children to work out their differences for themselves, but if they can’t a teacher steps in. They have removed students from the school for unacceptable behavior. Kids who in public school would have been shark food have friends and are able to get an education because the school makes it clear that being an asshole is just unacceptable.

Sounds like. I’m kind of sick of people hiding behind free speech in order to justify being a jerk… But it seems to me maybe this is a problem that can only be solved from the ground up? Too much of our culture is geared towards differentiating and making “outsiders” feel bad.

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Well, as I said, there will always be sociopaths. Nothing you do will stop them. Because they’re broken.

As for the zero tolerance, it’s a step waaaaaaaaaay too far in the wrong direction. My adopted sister (who’s 23 years younger than me) has almost been suspended twice:

  1. she made a finger gun… like all kids always have
  2. She told someone they weren’t friends. OMG REALLY!?! All elementary school was a daily shifting of alliances. Someone who “wasn’t your friend” today would totally be your BEST FRIEND tomorrow.

Being bullied was the worst, but this is just ridiculous.


My daughter’s school I think gets the balance right. They’ve kicked kids out for physical attacks, and they tend to have meetings with both families about verbal bullying in order to get to the bottom of the issues and have to kids understand that problems they have with each other need to be discussed and worked out without resorting to making the other person feel bad. But, honestly, beating up on kids smaller than you should be a expellable offense in any shool. Period.

Also, as far as the zero tolerance stuff, from what I’ve seen anecdotally, schools have used it to weed out kids who would typically be the targets of bullies, especially post-Columbine - thgose who just don’t fit in for whatever reason. My niece got kicked out for something similar to your sister (the first one) when she was being bullied for months prior, and some friends of ours were clearly targeted because they were atheists. Again, this is all anecdotal, so take it with a grain of salt.

The goals of public schools are to create a uniform work force that is smart enough to do their jobs, but not good enough critical thinkers to cause trouble - at least that was Foucault’s argument and it’s hard to argue with a dead French guy.

Overall, I think making treating people with respect as a school policy is hardly “zero tolerance” but seems common sense to me. But then again, I think we live in a time and age where compassion for the individual is just in short supply. :frowning:

Oh, and for the sociopaths - I think the fact that they are (hopefully) a tiny minority of people, who have something wrong with them and I don’t see why they should get to set the agenda on the sorts of behaviors allowed at a public school. Allowing someone to act out cruel tendencies is not the same as someone having them. it’s the schools responsibility to be able to deal with those acts and make sure everyone knows that they are unacceptable.

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What about beating up on kids larger than you? Much like prison, smaller kids will sometimes decide the best way to gain respect is to attack the biggest kid. Then because of zero tolerance, both kids get suspended.


I guess that depends, right? Was the smaller kid defending himself, or was he making a preemptive strike? Also, some small kids can be pretty tough and can be jerks and bullies all on their own.

I do think, overall, that zero tolerance doesn’t work because it has no nuance built in. Then you get things like kids not being able to bring ibuprofen to school, or getting kicked out for making a gun with their fingers. But I think all too often the kids at the top of the pecking order have an easier time getting out of such things in the first place, either through community pressure or from parental pressure.

I do think that making it clear that bullying shouldn’t tolerated can be done in a way that does not work like zero tolerance.

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The type of kid I was thinking about was what my dad likes to call a “Little Big Man”. A smaller than average kid who will look around their age group for the biggest kid who doesn’t want to fight back. The smaller kid will poke and prod at the bigger one until the bigger one gets tired of it and hits the little prick. The smaller kid then gets to play the victim card, especially if the teachers only saw the big kid hit the little kid. Basically this except without video showing the provocation:


A sociopath, without the big muscles? I mean, yeah. That’s a form of bullying, too, isn’t it?

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