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Anonymous Message App Yik Yak Faces Backlash from an Entire City

By  Kim Bellware 

CHICAGO — Yik Yak is the latest anonymous messaging app to stoke cyber bullying fears among parents and educators, recently causing so much worry its creators temporarily disabled it for an entire city.

After an Alabama teen used the app to make school shooting threats in Februrary and a Massachusettes high school was twice evacuated due to bomb threats posted to the app, Yik Yak was temporarily disabled for the Chicago area.

At least four Chicagoland schools have issued warnings to parents in the past few weeks about the app one user described as “the Burn Book of 2014.”

Created last fall, Yik Yak connects up to 500 people within a close geographic range (approximately one mile) and shows a Twitter-like feed of anonymous comments that can be up-or downvoted. The app already has more than 240,000 users, according to USA Today.

There are no accounts or usernames next to the “Yaks,” which range from mundane non-sequiturs to hateful, abusive missives. One high school student told ABC Chicago Yik Yakers used the app to “rip” on an alleged rape victim.

Whitney Young high school in Chicago recently blocked the app from its Wi-Fi network, though anyone with phone and a data plan was still able to access it. After complaints from parents and schools, Yik Yak’s creators disabled the app for the entire Chicago area on March 6, selectively re-enabling it March 9.

“We have re-enabled the app for the Chicago area after attempting to geofence all high schools and middle schools in the area,” Yik Yak co-founder Brooks Buffington told The Huffington Post via email, noting the list of schools is not yet comprehensive.

Brad Spirrison, managing editor of smartphone app site Appolicious, told ABC that a city-wide blackout for a social media app is uncommon.

“This kind of pulling from a particular town, city, region is — if not unprecedented — extremely rare,” Spirrison said.

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