Yik Yak tests new photo feature on campuses

Founders say images will be moderated carefully

The anonymous social media app Yik Yak confirmed Tuesday that it is testing a new image function on college campuses—and experts are worried about the potential for cyberbullying and breaches of privacy.

Related: What professors should do about hate speech on Yik Yak

Right now, only text can be posted to Yik Yak, unlike other social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Even in text-only form, Yik Yak has made headlines for causing trouble on college campuses—and at professional conferences.

In a blog post, Yik Yak officials say the photos will be strictly moderated. Pictures must be taken from within the app and approved by Yik Yak administrators before the images will appear publicly. Administrators will delete images that show faces, nudity, or behavior judged to be "inappropriate" or "illegal."

But even companies with more resources than Yik Yak, like Facebook, have faced challenges moderating their content, writes Issie Lapowsky in Wired. The strict moderation standards applied in the testing phase may be difficult to scale up when the feature is released broadly, she adds.

"When the poster is anonymous it's easy to see the mischief people can reap with this tool," Danielle Citron, author of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, told Wired. She also points out that "we have increasingly seen issues involving compromising sexually explicit images that are taken without people's permission."

Only last month, a fraternity chapter was suspended for allegedly using Facebook to share illicit photographs of hazing, drug sales, and women.

However, also last month, the founders of Yik Yak announced at the SXSW Interactive Conference that they have added new moderation and policing features to prevent cyberbullying and inappropriate content.

Yik Yak says it has not yet formalized plans for releasing the image function to all users (Lapowsky, Wired, 4/1; Roy, CBS Local, 3/17).

The takeaway: Yik Yak is testing a new photo function on some college campuses. Some experts worry about the potential for abuse, but Yik Yak founders say posts will be strictly moderated.

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