Yik Yak, Famous for Cyberbullying and Racism, Makes Comeback No One Asked For

Now that we know so acutely how these apps can hurt people, I'd hope we'd all know better than to bring it back.
August 16, 2021, 8:11pm
The Yik Yak logo, a cartoon yak, overlaid on top of the text "yik yak is back."
Image Source: Yik Yak

Four years ago Yik Yak, an anonymous, location-based message board app, shut down. Today it's back. I am unsure who asked for this.

Anonymous message boards and forums have been a perennial part of internet culture since its inception, when people more often used usernames to identify themselves online rather than their real name. As a people, we now have a treasure trove of information about the pitfalls of unrestricted anonymity. Evidence of those pitfalls include instances as minor as the anonymous message board at my college where fellow students called each other sluts on a daily basis, up to and including the ur-conspiracy theory of QAnon

Yik Yik, which was popular on college campuses, had a toxic reputation in its heyday. Launched in 2013, the app had a reputation for cyber bullying, just like other anonymous message boards became vectors for online harassment. Its localized nature meant that even if the harassment was anonymous, the victim was incredibly visible and known to a small community. In 2017, several former students sued the University of Mary Washington in Virginia over harassments and threats of physical and sexual violence made over the app. Around the same time, the app was shut down.

Today marks Yik Yak's triumphant new launch, which is great because we have solved all those problems with anonymous message boards noted above. Wait a second—actually I'm hearing that all of these issues have simply gotten worse. Last year, a popular reality show cast member killed themselves after they were subject to a torrent of online harassment, leading to production of the show to be suspended. Writers who covered celebrities are stalked and harassed by their fans, sometimes having their personal information released online. At its most extreme, QAnon was allowed to proliferate through anonymous message boards until it became unavoidable on the internet as a whole. 

Though Yik Yak now makes you swipe through a series of "community guardrails" when it opens, including a message about bullying and harassment, the cat is just out of the bag. Yik Yak users always knew that the people on the app were members of "your local community," as the Yik Yak phrases its guidelines. They were aware of that, and didn't care. Now that we know so acutely how these apps can hurt people, I'd hope we'd all know better than to bring it back.