Opinion Asks: Yik Yak and Censoring

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 2/21/16 6:45pm

In light of the recent Yik Yak video, should the app screen comments?

Comments should not be screened. As hurtful as these views are to minority groups, and I hope, to the majority of the Dartmouth community, they still represent an aggravating reality of racial intolerance, bigotry and hatred. What is perhaps more disturbing and more infuriating is that those expressing these kinds of opinions probably repress them in real life, and rely on anonymous outlets like Yik Yak to let out their insecurities, anger and frustration. That makes it far more difficult to locate the sources of racist and hurtful speech, and therefore far more difficult to educate them. Nevertheless, the response to those who attempt to silence members of our community is not silencing them back. It is fighting against them.

-Ioana Solomon ’19

I don’t believe comments should be screened from Yik Yak. From a business perspective, the lack of screening combined with the veil of anonymity is a large part of what allows Yik Yak to thrive. If we were to censor Yik Yak, another app would certainly emerge and take its place. I don’t believe this is an issue of censoring knowledge or political opinions. A large part of what people Yak about is humorous, and I do not think that unregulated space should be compromised because of a few idiots’ comments.

-Ben Szuhaj ’19

I actually deleted Yik Yak a while ago, because it just plain made me too sad. The fact that people I go to class with and interact with say racist and sexist things behind a keyboard made me way too upset. Maybe I’m not helping the problem by trying to cut it out of my life, but I just couldn’t handle that negativity on a day to day basis. That being said, I don’t think comments should be screened or removed, because everyone should be able to say whatever they want, no matter how awful it is. What I do believe is that Yik Yak shouldn’t be anonymous. If you believe in something enough to put it online where it could potentially affect people, then you should be comfortable with attaching your name to it. People have every right to say whatever it is that they believe, but if they’re going to do it in a forum that can hurt other people, then we have every right to know who they are.

-Andres Smith ’17, Opinion Editor

Screening has absolutely no place on Yik Yak. As awful as many of these posts may be, they represent voices among us. Screening such comments is not only contrary to free speech, it does absolutely nothing to solve the true problem. If racism still exists, why ignore it or pretend it isn’t there? We cannot cure the disease if we cannot identify the symptoms. Screening might be necessary if there is a clear, imminent threat to our safety — a bomb threat or a call for violence ­— but not on the grounds that something is hurtful. We are assuming, of course, that these posts are sincerely written and meant to be taken at face value. That being said, we must take the time to question their truthfulness. Could the posts just be the product of a few people’s sick sense of humor? Could they not be the work of trolls? Or could they even, perhaps, be the work of the purported “targets” looking to generate sympathy for a cause? Unless there is a clear and present danger to personal safety, no form of screening or censorship is ever an acceptable response.

-Jinsung Bach ’17

I believe that freedom of speech is an important aspect of our society, and that anonymous forums are integral to freedom of speech. Monitoring and restricting what people say won’t change how they feel and think; all it does is constrain public discussion on a topic. Additionally, I think it is important to note that it is unclear how many individuals were posting on Yik Yak — or even if it was just one poster. Furthermore, many of the Yaks had no upvotes or were downvoted, even just in the few seconds to minutes that were indicated by the screenshots. I believe the vast majority of campus disagrees with the content of the posts (which was why almost all were downvoted to removal extremely quickly). However, forcibly silencing those few individuals who hold such unfortunate opinions won’t make those individuals or their opinions disappear. It is only through allowing such opinions to come to light and then having open dialogue and debate that people can change their views.

-Michelle Gil ’16

I don’t think that any additional screening is necessary. The freedom to post such statements that denounce and degrade persons of color and their movements — and the up/down votes that go along with them — allow us to gauge the prevalence of ignorance and stupidity on campus. It allows us to see how many supposedly intelligent people harbor feelings of hatred and blindness toward inequality, as well as how many people agree with them. The truth is, we go to a school where many students care more about Canada Goose jackets or KAF cookies or getting next on table than they do about their neighbors of color having the same rights and opportunities as they do. Far too often, I have heard wealthy white Connecticutites say that movements like Black Lives Matter are unreasonable and have no place at Dartmouth. Such sentiment is not only worrisome, but sickening. These are people who will go on to become corporate executives and maybe politicians. Chew on that, Dartmouth. Let those posts flow free on Yik Yak. Share them everywhere you can, so the world can see that Dartmouth isn’t simply the pretty little College on the Hill that so many people pretend it is.

-Billy Peters ’15