Freedom of speech concerns as university blocks Yik Yak

University of Lincoln students have voiced their anger at the Students’ Union after it campaigned to ban a popular social networking app.

Yik Yak – which allows users to post anonymous comments and read others based on their location – has attracted some criticism after numerous people experienced bullying and threats on the app.

Yik Yak at university (Photo: Gregor Smith)

Students trying to access Yik Yak on university Wi-Fi will see an internet connection error (Photo: Gregor Smith)

The SU’s student council said that the app “has caused much distress to a number of University of Lincoln students” and announced that it would be made unavailable on the university’s Internet and Wi-Fi networks.

They also revealed plans to impose a five kilometre ban on the app around the university campus, but have been unable to do so.

The Students’ Union also pledged to encourage the National Union of Students to take action on Yik Yak nationwide.

In a report, they said: “Within the first semester, a number of schools have had complaints regarding the app concerning how personal some of the comments have been to certain individuals.

“By banning the use of Yik Yak through the University networks on campus, it will make it more difficult to post the negative comments targeted towards certain students that arise during lectures, seminars and when on campus.”

Despite promising to campaign on a national platform, the Students’ Union declined The Linc’s request for interview and comment. Members of their student council also refused to speak on record about the matter.

A spokesperson from the University of Lincoln’s IT department said: “Yik Yak is not banned on the University campus. Any student can still use the service if they choose to install the app and use their mobile data connection on their own devices.

They added: “We have prevented the use of Yik Yak across the University network in response to evidence that the service has been used for extremely inappropriate purposes. As the service is anonymous and untraceable we cannot be seen to facilitate such behaviour.”

Deputy vice chancellor Professor Scott Davidson also stressed that the app is not ‘banned’.
He said: “What we have done is blocked Yik Yak at the University’s IT firewall so that it cannot be used via the University’s network.

“We have done this because the use of Yik Yak is anonymous and untraceable, and we have clear evidence that it has been used for cyberbullying and worse – such as criminal cases which have been reported to the police.

“While we cannot ‘ban’ the use of Yik Yak, we can ensure that the University does not facilitate its use as a means of offering students and staff what protection we can,” he said.

“People can still use Yik Yak via their own networks.”

However, some users of the app have argued that the censorship affects their right to free speech. Meanwhile, students from Lincoln Courts have also voiced their frustration after the ban means they cannot access the app on both the accommodation and university Internet. Users from Courts have since had to use their mobile data in order to access the app.

Chelsea Everett, who lives in Lincoln Courts, said that she is currently using 3G and her boyfriend’s phone in order to use Yik Yak.

“It was easier when it was available on the university Wi-Fi. It’s a problem for me as I pay for my phone bill so I can’t afford to be using my 3G on Yik Yak,” she said.

But whilst some students from Courts are unhappy with the decision, dance student Josh Montague-Mendelsohn is amongst those who aren’t worried about the ban.

He said: “Honestly I couldn’t care less if I tried about the ban. I find it hilarious that people are so upset about it.

“I want the Students’ Union to do what they do and continue on because it’s for the best, in my opinion.”