Major Win for Feminists Majority Foundation in case against the University of Mary Washington.

Yik Yak, a popular app used by College students in 2014, was under fire when members of the student group Feminists United say they were subjected to cyberbullying, cyberstalking and threats of sexual assault after they spoke out against Greek life on campus and against a distasteful chant the rugby team was recorded singing. Harassment came largely via Yik Yak, a now-defunct social media tool that used geotargeting to allow people on campus to make comments anonymously about others on the campus. In this case, the harassment was not the kind of mocking of feminists that is omnipresent online, but specific threats of violent acts, accompanied by the whereabouts of members of Feminists United, who were identified by name.

Yik Yak was a social media smartphone application that was launched in 2013. It was available for iOS and Android and it allowed people to create and view discussion threads anonymously within a 5-mile radius.

The jury found that officials at Yik Yak could and should have done more to protect students from online harassment.

The incident happened back in 2014 and 2015 and the case was dismissed last years after a Judge found that because the harassment took place on a platform that the University of Mary Washington had very little control over. The group also brought the issue at hand up as aTitle XI case, the Judge also said, “Title IX does not require the school to meet specific demands of its students “.

The case was taken to appellate court where the court ruled 2 to 1 on Wednesday that feminist students who sued the University of Mary Washington for failing to protect them from anonymous online harassment were entitled to pursue their lawsuit. The decision reversed a ruling by a lower court to throw out the lawsuit on First Amendment and other grounds.

This is not the first time the App has been found in the middle of controversy. Yik Yak’s image problems seemed to stem from its reliance on anonymous posts and the few solutions that were available to curtail racist, sexist, aggressive or threatening language.  The app faced a barrage of public image problems, as the platform became known for issues like cyberbullying due to the anonymous nature of user posts. Many high schools used geofences to ban Yik Yak from its campuses and there were several cases of the police subpoenaing Yik Yak after threats were made on the app. With its poor public image, Yik Yak failed to find any substantial advertisers and couldn’t find a sustainable business model.

 

In this case, the school was found to be negligent but many think the app is to blame for not having stricter guidelines and policies.

 

Published by GetnSocial

The Familiar Face of a Cyberbully

 

When we think about cyberbullies, the face that often comes to mind is that of a stranger: this hooded figure, prowling the internet, searching for someone they can attack, belittle, and damage online. They are a faceless, nameless person who believes that by remaining anonymous online, their identity can never be discovered. And even if you were to discover their true identity, it would come as no surprise that the culprit was the mean girl, the egotistical jock, or the school bully.

 

Unfortunately, this is not the case for many cyberbullying victims. The attacker has a face – one the victim is all too familiar with. According to a 2016 study that was presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA), “the likelihood of cyberbullying [is] approximately seven times greater between current or former friends and dating partners than between young people who had neither been friends nor had dated.” Your cyberbully could very well be your best friend. While this may be a very hard pill to swallow, the fact that girls were twice as likely as boys to fall victim to cyberbullying, is less shocking.

 

Diane Felmlee, a professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University and the lead author of the study, explains why friends and former partners are so often times the perpetrators of these online attacks and rumors.

 

“Friends, or former friends, are particularly likely to find themselves in situations in which they are vying for the same school, club, and/or sport positions and social connections…young people often have resentful and hurt feelings as a result of a breakup, and they may take out these feelings on a former partner via cyber aggression.”

 

Knowing the perpetrator of the attack is someone so close to them can also impact a victim’s decision to come forward and report the bullying. Even more challenging is figuring out how to deal with the situation, as acting out in retaliation is exactly what the bullying is looking for from you. As is with any case of bullying, friend or foe, the best and hardest thing for the victim to do is walk away – not just from the attacks and the rumors, but from the relationship as a whole.

 

In the 2011 ABC Family movie “Cyberbully,” the main character Taylor, played by actress Emily Osment, learns this lesson the hard way. In the film, Taylor is terrorized by her classmates’ constant horrible comments, all of which were sparked by one rumor started by a boy Taylor met online. It is later revealed that Taylor’s best friend Samantha, played by Kay Panabaker, created the boy’s fake profile and started the rumor.

 

When you pull the cord to reveal the person behind the curtain, be prepared for who you might find. If you or someone you know is a victim of cyberbullying, or someone you know is the perpetrator, please tell a trusted adult.

 

Published by GetnSocial