UA-76843172-1

Yik-Yak causes campus-wide controversy

Dan Zalewski
Associate Sports Editor

  In the ever-evolving world of social media, companies are continually clawing over one another to find the next niche market. One app that is currently enjoying its day in the sun is Yik-Yak. Deemed the anonymous Twitter, Yik-Yak allows users to make comments publicly, under the shroud of anonymity, in a forum decided by local GPS location. However, its nameless aspects have caused all sorts of problems across campus. There have been accusations of the app promoting racism, sexism, homophobia and direct hate towards specific individuals. Yik-Yak’s day in the sun is more that of a look under the microscope as conflict has arisen on Millersville’s campus, representing the boiling point of discriminatory issues to the concerned students of Millersville.

            “I’m here to promote the good use of the app and the app itself,” claims the student in the center of these accusations. Known by his self-given screen name, Zeke Marffy, Marffy is defending his actions as he believes that he has done no wrong. These accusations came against him Nov. 3 in the Galley. Marffy is not only a student of Millersville University, but also has been hired by Yik-Yak as a campus representative. As part of his job, Marffy was handing out free Yik-Yak memorabilia and informing others to use Yik-Yak for good, positive things. “I handed out the stuff in the Galley. I was told, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it, by the people at the SMC information desk [that] I could either reserve a table for outside the SMC for a price, or do it inside the Galley, in which they told me [they] can’t stop me if I do that,” said Marffy.

            To other students, Marffy’s simple promotion crossed a line. Marc Masoner, a student at Millersville University, has personally been affected by negative hate speech and spoke up to Marffy about his current actions. “I was informed by a friend of mine that Yik-Yak had a promotion table at the SMC,” said Masoner, “I asked the guy first if he was university sanctioned and he said yes.” After confirming with Marffy his claim that he received permission, Masoner made the decision to take the issue straight to the top, President Anderson. “He asked me why I would [email President Anderson],” said Masoner. Masoner claims that the students of Milersville do not need this app promoted on campus.

            Marffy recognizes the issue with Yik-Yak, and says that is part of the reason he is there. Not only does Marffy take steps to promote a better use of Yik-Yak, but he monitors and can delete things off of the ‘Yak feed’ if it’s of a negative nature. “It takes five votes to delete a Yak, if they’re all downvotes,” said Marffy, “We can delete things on the Yak feed if we want, and we do.” Marffy considers this aspect of his job one of the most important. However, like many of us who grew up with the internet have been told time and time again, once you post something on the internet, it’s there forever. “It only took me one second to screenshot these,” said Masoner, referring to different negative Yaks.

            The differences between Marffy and Masoner evolved into what some onlookers called a ‘civilized argument’ as many individuals were drawn towards the commotion within the Galley. The dispute lasted no more than five minutes before the parties separated from each other, and Masoner left to later send a message to President Anderson regarding the public promotion of Yik-Yak. Within the email, Masoner mentioned how the promoter was a student and how allowing such an app to be able to promote itself is a “slap in the face to those who have been victims of the app’s ability to post anonymously”. Masoner received a response from Brian Hazlett, Vice President of the University and President of Student Affairs. The letter reassured Masoner that the university agrees with his concerns about the kind of communication that occurs on Yik-Yak and assures that no official table was requested by Yik-Yak. Millersville University has already taken action in the past regarding Yik-Yak. A month ago the university began promoting a ‘Downvote the Hate’ campaign that was advertised on signs around the campus. The issues with hate speech on Yik-Yak still continue despite these efforts.

            Marffy said he felt like he shouldn’t receive any punishment for his actions since his objective to reduce Yik-Yak hate is a sentiment shared by the university, and he didn’t do anything that he was told he couldn’t do. He claims that you cannot punish someone who didn’t disobey any rules that existed prior to the event in question. Marffy’s ability to go into a public space and speak openly on a topic of his choosing is a 1st amendment right. Whether or not the promotion of Yik-Yak touches upon the caveat of hate speech is still debatable. Both Marffy and Masoner recognize that ‘hate-speech-esque’ material exists on Yik-Yak, but is the hate speech contributable to the app itself or in the individuals that use the app.

            The second overarching issue with Yik-Yak is the current uproar seen at several universities across the United States in terms of racial issues. With current dishevelment, primarily at the University of Missouri and Ithaca College, the issue of racism at American universities is forefront in many students’ minds. These issues of racism, along with sexism and homophobia, are often seen and spread upon Yik-Yak. Masoner believes that the time to face this problem is now more than ever “because anonymous social media, like this, it’s only going to take one person to make a racial comment, or a slur, to incite a group of people. That’s all that it takes.” Marffy did not make a personal comment, stating officially, “To be honest I’m really not the best person to answer that question.”

            As for the future of Yik-Yak, the app still is a widely used form of social media across the country. Marffy is still currently employed by the company, and plans on contacting President Anderson and Vice President Hazlett personally regarding the accusations against him. He does not plan to continue promotion until the controversy is behind him. Until then, the issue regarding hate speech and Yik-Yak is still undecided.

 

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