There is an app called Yik Yak. How they come up with these names is beyond me, but then, old guys probably aren’t the target audience for such things, and so the name need not strike me as meaningful or appealing. And Yik Yak, apparently, has become a fixture on college campuses.
And that’s problematic.
Seventy-two women’s and civil-rights groups on Wednesday announced a campaign to enlist the federal government in pressuring colleges to protect students from harassment via anonymous social-media applications like Yik Yak.
The groups have sent the U.S. Education Department a letter calling for it to treat colleges’ failure to monitor anonymous social media and to pursue online harassers as a violation of federal civil-rights laws guaranteeing equal educational access.
The problem, according to The Feminist Majority, is that Yik Yak is anonymous, so Yiker Yakers can post things that hurt other people’s feelings, which of course falls within the trendy rubric of “harassment.” And, by squinting hard, that creates a sexually hostile learning environment on campus, making it the duty of colleges under Title IX to end the problem.
The letter says many colleges have cited “vague First Amendment concerns” to shirk their obligation to respond to harassment, intimidation, and threatening behavior via such applications. It calls on the department’s Office for Civil Rights to require colleges to fight such online abuse by taking steps like identifying and disciplining perpetrators and creating technological barriers to the use of social-media applications that harassers favor.
As should be abundantly clear by now, “vague First Amendment concerns” don’t cover speech that hurts people’s feelings, and so outing anon speakers and “creating technological barriers” to the apps that “harassers favor” will end this hate speech and create that safe environment to which feminists are entitled. No longer should women be forced to suffer these threats.
And the DoE Office of Civil Rights is on the case.
Debra S. Katz, a lawyer involved in the advocacy groups’ effort, announced that she had persuaded the Office for Civil Rights to investigate the University of Mary Washington, a public institution in Virginia, based on accusations that the university had subjected students to a sexually hostile environment by failing to confront online harassment and had illegally retaliated against students for complaining.
Of course, the school didn’t invent Yik Yak. How the school plays any role in “subjecting” students to this “sexually hostile environment” defies reason. Unless one enjoys the backward perspective of imposing a duty on colleges to insulate their students from the entirety of the outside world, any harsh word by anyone anywhere, upon pain of OCR investigation and threats of loss of federal funding.
But bubble-wrapping feminists from the harassment of Yik Yak is just the start of the plan for feelz hegemony.
The letter that the 72 advocacy groups sent the Education Department on Tuesday mentions several other social-media applications, such as 4chan,an online bulletin board, and BurnBook, a forum for school-based commentary, as vehicles for anonymous harassment.
As the expansive view of evil websites and apps demonstrates, the battle is being taken in all directions by these advocacy groups. The “online bulletin board” 4Chan is, and always has been, a rough place to hang out, with plenty of mean language and a strong likelihood of getting your head ripped off for saying the wrong thing. There is, of course, a really easy answer to avoiding such haters. Don’t go there.
That solution, however, is anathema to these feminist advocacy groups, as another entitlement is their right to go wherever they please online, and to force whomever was there before them to change everything to suit their feelz.
And if they don’t, then they must be punished. And the first step in punishing is to know who these hate-animals are.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Ms. Katz said she hoped to persuade Yik Yak to be more forthcoming in revealing the identities of users who harass online, and to stop refusing to hand over users’ names to people outside law enforcement unless ordered to do so by a court. Observing that the company has been quick to provide information identifying people who have threatened criminal acts such as shootings, she said it should also feel obliged to identify the violators of federal laws barring educational institutions from discriminating based on sex or race.
And so the clout comes back to the Office of Civil Rights, the attenuated rationalization of private speech in privately-owned forums being subject to laws barring colleges from allowing a sexually hostile environment to encroach on feminist smartphones.
If Katz is to be believed, OCR is on board with this.
Ms. Katz said she hoped the Office for Civil Rights would issue strong new guidance requiring colleges to stem online harassment “because schools, quite frankly, are very scared of lawsuits.”
Sadly, this is hardly a stretch. Since the response that if feminists find Yik Yak unpleasant, they can always tune into another social media app, or maybe even come up with one of their own, is unacceptable, the possibility that Yik Yak will be subject to OCR control gives rise to some humorous possibilities. After all, if social media was put under the thumb of OCR to make it acceptable to feminists, the only people who would use it are feminists. How much fun would that be?
That the entirety of this silliness is such a facial, flagrant violation of First Amendment rights, at every step, on the other hand, can be easily waved off. After all, everybody know that speech that offends feminists isn’t protected by the Constitution, just as everybody knows that there is no federal agency more responsible for curing the evils of outrage than the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. And they answer to no one.