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Q&A: How Yik Yak wants to weed out abuse and become the next Twitter

Zach Miners | Oct. 14, 2014
Yik Yak CEO Tyler Droll and Chief Operating Officer Brooks Buffington lay out their vision.

IDG: What about middle and high schools? You were in them previously, but then came the reports around cyberbullying and other abuse.
Droll: We're actively not in those types of schools anymore. We gave them a chance with the app, and we quickly realized they're not psychologically ready to handle something with this much power. So we've blocked the app at almost every high school and middle school campus. If you try to open it within a high school or middle school campus, it will say, 'You can't use it here. It's for college-age and up.'

IDG: How do you know where all the high school and middle schools are to block it?
Droll: We found a company with a list of all of them, and we built geo-fences around the campuses. We tinker with them every day. Sometimes a campus will be a big private school, and have a huge campus, and we have to make the geo-fence bigger. Sometimes we miss a random school somewhere.

IDG: What company do you use?
Droll: Maponics.

Buffington: I think Maponics brought us around 85 percent of American high schools and middle schools. Now it's tinkering with them and adding the few that aren't on that list.

IDG: Your app has also come under fire at colleges and universities due to abuse, even some death threats. What, if anything, are you guys doing to combat abuse?
Droll: Anonymity can sometimes breed not the best behavior online. We err on the side of 'take stuff off as quickly as possible.' First, we have 'down-votes.' You can down-vote posts, and once it gets to minus-five, it's deleted. That gets bad content off very quickly. Beyond that, users can report messages. And on our end, we have a team of moderators working and we have filters running in the background. They're checking for names, comments, cyberbullying, racist and homophobic slurs, and general inappropriate content.

IDG: How quick are you to jump on a flagged post?
Buffington: We have moderators who review flagged posts. But we err on the side of, pretty much when something is flagged, it's almost always taken off, if it contains a lot of these key things we're looking for. That's usually an indication it's a bad post.

IDG: Will you be ramping up your anti-abuse efforts?
Buffington: A lot of what Tyler and I focus on on a daily basis is, how do we get communities to act as constructively and positively as they can. Colleges are great. What we do have a problem with is people posting threats. It's always going to be hard to stop. It's more of a factor of us becoming a large social media network. People post threats on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Obviously it's our job to try to mitigate and lessen it as much as possible. But it's a problem.


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