Yik Yak is an anonymous social media application and feminists claim people are using it for harassment. Government to the rescue.

From the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Women’s Groups Urge Colleges and Government to Rein In Yik Yak

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 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.

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. She said she also had sent a letter requesting a meeting with Yik Yak’s founders, Tyler Droll and Stephen Brooks Buffington, to discuss steps their company can take to end harassment. And she said she planned to push lawmakers to regulate Yik Yak if the company fails to tackle the issue on its own.

“Until there is a cost for online harassment, nothing will change,” Shauna Thomas, a co-founder of UltraViolet, a feminist advocacy group, said on Wednesday as her organization joined others at a news conference here announcing the anti-harassment campaign.