College Cyberbulling Causes Social Media Crackdown | NECN


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College Cyberbulling Causes Social Media Crackdown

Norwich University in Vt. has blocked access to Yik Yak, which allows for anonymous message posting



    Norwich University in Vermont has blocked access to Yik Yak, which allows for anonymous message posting. (Published Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014)

    Concerns over cyberbullying led Vermont's Norwich University to block users of the school's servers from accessing a social media app.

    The app, Yik Yak, allows users to post anonymous blurbs, including rants, gossip, or praise for the best classes or parties. Those messages are visible to other users in close proximity.

    "People are talking smack to other people; talking smack about the school and groups on campus and stuff," said student Michael Muradyan, describing content he has seen on Yik Yak at Norwich.

    In a prepared statement, Norwich said the policy decision was made effective this past weekend.

    "This action was taken in an effort to protect Norwich students and to demonstrate that bullying in any form is not tolerated at Norwich University," the statement read.

    Norwich computer systems professor Mich Kabay said that message about cyberbullying is "something we need to get across in society."

    Kabay, whose courses including one on cybercrime, told New England Cable News he knows cyberbullying can have extremely serious consequences for victims, including some around the nation who have taken their own lives.

    "The more individuals and organizations that take a stand and say, 'No, that's wrong. I don't like that. That's ugly; we don't do that,' then we will see change across generations," Kabay predicted.

    Muradyan pointed out to NECN that at Norwich, students can still access Yik Yak through their phones' own data plans-- separate from the school's servers.

    "Kids are still finding a way around it," he said.

    While there have been no official reports of criminal behavior at Norwich using the app, the school is launching an internal campus investigation into the issues of cyberbullying and the use of Yik Yak. The police are not involved in that internal campus investigation, which is being led by the school's vice president of student life and enrollment management, according to the statement.

    In response to an NECN inquiry about its policy regarding alleged instances of cyberbullying, Yik Yak released a statement saying it "recognizes that as with any social app or network today, there is the likelihood for misuse from a small group of users.. It said it has "geo-fenced almost all primary and secondary schools and turned the app to 17+ in stores to ensure the user base is age appropriate and parents can easily block the app on their children's phones."

    "Additionally, the app monitors conversations and posts, and any negative or harmful behavior can result in the respective user being blocked, or altogether banned from future use," the statement added. "Yik Yak also finds that as more users sign up and start using the app, communities begin to self-regulate in a positive way."