20-year-old Adelaide Fuller is currently on Spring break, enjoying a reprieve from all things school.
But while the Hamilton College junior was thrilled to skip town for a few days, she was horrified to learn that back on campus, someone with the username “AddyFuller” was spending their days posting sexually explicit comments on anonymous gossip app Yik Yak — and there’s nothing the real Fuller can do to stop it.
In case you’re not familiar with Yik Yak, the app is a digital message board that allows people within a certain geographic area to post anonymous comments that anyone can read. The controversial app took college campuses across the country by storm back in 2014, but since then, has had a hard time staying relevant with students.
One way to keep its users interested was a new addition: This month, the app rolled out a major change to its platform, giving users the option to post “Yaks” using an account name, ideally their real name, rather than remaining anonymous. The idea behind doing this was to “give users a little more control over their feed,” Yik Yak co-founder Brooks Buffington told Tech Insider reporter Alex Heath earlier in March. Now users are able to mute posts from accounts they don’t want to see.
Now, all Yik Yak users are required to designate an account handle for all of their posts.
Here’s the problem: The user names require no verification. Anyone at all can register the name “AddyFuller” and start posting Yaks on the page for Hamilton College.
“I got a text from a friend telling me that someone has been using my name as a Yak handle and posting Yaks,” Fuller told Tech Insider. “But they didn’t tell me the nature of [the posts].”
When Fuller was finally able to check Yik Yak, she was horrified by what she found.
She sent the below screenshots to TI with permission to post them. Warning: Some of these might be considered NSFW.
You can see why Fuller is stressed out over this.
So far, several people have commented on the posts, asking if they were really from Fuller.
“Ha yes. I didn’t know that handles were public,” “AddyFuller” posted. Given that the handle feature is new to Yik Yak, this explanation could make sense if Fuller had accidentally attached her name to a comment she thought was anonymous.
Except Fuller says she didn’t write these posts.
While some friends jumped on Yik Yak to defend Fuller, who, remember, is still on vacation and no where near campus, other anonymous users continued to pile on.
“It was nothing short of jarring to see my name being thrown around, but the worst part was the sexual nature of the yaks,” Fuller said. “I felt very attacked.”
Though the app’s recent update was supposed to encourage transparency, the new handle feature could actually be worse for students like Fuller, because there is no way to prove the posts were, or were not, actually from a specific user. And unlike a platform like Facebook or Twitter, which offer more information through user profiles and require various forms of authentication, it’s almost impossible to prove who really wrote a post on Yik Yak. So how is Fuller supposed to prove she’s not the one behind the lewd posts coming from user “AddyFuller”? And maybe more importantly, how is she supposed to prove who is?
A Yik Yak representative told Tech Insider that users can report impersonation claims on the support section of the app’s website.
“When we are informed of a potential issue we look into it and take action as appropriate, up to and including suspending the other user,” the representative said.
So far, Fuller says she, and several of her friends, have reported the fake Fuller, but the posts are still live on the app and she hasn’t been contacted by anyone from Yik Yak.
Fuller still has another week of spring break left, but says the whole ordeal has made her anxious about returning to classes.
“At the moment I don’t feel comfortable thinking about going back to Hamilton without knowing who posted [the Yaks].”