Judge: (Bangs gavel)
Bailiff: All rise. The court is now in session. The honorable Judge is presiding.
Judge: Our court hearings are closed. The only persons allowed in the courtroom are people directly involved in the case. If there is anyone in the courtroom who is not directly involved in this case, please leave at this time.
(No one leaves)
Judge: Very well. Second: everything that goes on here is confidential. I don’t want to see any of this on YikYak or Tinder or Waze. If everyone will please raise their right hand and repeat after me: “I solemnly swear that I will not divulge, either by words or signs, any information which comes to my knowledge, and that I will keep secret all said proceedings which may be held in my presence.”
(No one repeats. A few students add it to their Snap story.)
Judge: Please be seated. Bailiff, please call the first case.
Bailiff: Case number 669, The People vs. YikYak, now comes for hearing.
Judge: Would the defendant please rise? Are you the defendant in this case?
Judge: You are charged with harassment, fraud, slander, libel, stupidity, overused and regurgitated jokes, and bad color schemes. How do you plead?
YikYak: Not guilty.
Judge: Thank you Mr. Yik. Or Mr. Yak? Anyway, prosecution, are you ready to begin?
Prosecution: Yes, your honor.
Judge: Please present your opening statement.
Prosecution: First, I just ask the judge, the jury, and anyone else present to unlock their phones and go to YikYak. I ask you to tell me what you see. What you see is most likely a racist, sexist, classist, or homophobic remark. Perhaps you are finding the classic “Go back to [insert here.]” Perhaps you are finding a plea for minorities to “just be grateful” or for feminists to “just make a sandwich.” And if you are not encountering vitriolic prejudice, then you are just finding a dumb joke about the buses.
YikYak is a breeding ground for bigots, racists, sexists, and idiots in general. Since the dawn of the Internet, people have hid behind anonymity to voice their deepest evils, and it’s time to get rid of this offensive and marginalizing platform all together. And, please, for the love God, please ban students from becoming “ambassadors” for the app.
YikYak Student Ambassador: OBJECTION!
Judge: On what grounds?
YikYak Student Ambassador: I wanted to inform the court that I have with me some YikYak swag: water bottles, t-shirts, tanks, phone cases, wristbands, condoms, non-reusable coffee cups, temporary tattoos, laptop stickers…
Judge: Overruled. Prosecution, please proceed.
Prosecution: With every piece of “swag” and every offensive Yak, the dunce cap on our university grows larger and larger. Thank you. I rest my case.
Judge: Thank you. Defense, you may now present your case.
Defense: I will begin with a reading of the Bill of Rights. Amendment One states that “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…”
Judge: Sustained. Please proceed.
Prosecution: Duke is not Congress and Duke is not making any laws abridging freedom of speech. Private institutions are not bound to the First Amendment. Plus, banning YikYak does not prevent people from speaking freely; it prevents people from being unaccountable for their words.
Defense: It is not Duke’s place to police forums of free speech, especially ones that are not tied to the university or the administration or to basketball. This is a third-party app, and the choice to use it is made by the individual. If an people have a problem with the app, they can delete it. For those interested, let me show you how: all you have to do is press and hold the app until it starts shaking like those dysfunctional goddamn tiles outside McClendon, and then you press the little x. But before you actually consider deleting it, check out our Yik Yak snapbacks! Snapyaks!
Judge: Please get back on topic.
Defense: Yes, of course, your honor. Furthermore, YikYak is not the only anonymous forum on campus: why take action against this form of speech while ignoring others? There are various publications and entities that operate somewhat anonymously, like that Department Of thing. So are we suggesting that we also end them along with YikYak?
(Dramatic pause pauses for too long and becomes awkward pause)
Defense: (turns towards the people of the court) Discourse is necessary anywhere, but is particularly necessary on a college campus. Where else are we to encourage the interaction between the most opposing of viewpoints, however poor the grammar of those viewpoints may be? YikYak is a platform for such activity. How else would students of color have evidence that racists on campus exist if it weren’t for YikYak? Without YikYak, we’d be depriving activists of the shiver of righteous indignation they get when they see a particularly oppressive Yak.
Prosecution: Student activists and students of color would know racists on campus exist because of nooses, n-words, and lynching chants. Not to mention the microaggressions and institutional racism.
Defense: But if we get rid of YikYak, who are we to say that five copycat forums won’t pop up in its place? If we do not respect the freedom of speech of those that we disagree with, we do not respect it at all.
Judge: (sighs) Sustained.
Prosecution: Protecting YikYak is not protecting freedom of speech for all students. Protecting YikYak is protecting an intolerant climate.
Defense: The problem with YikYak isn’t with the app itself – it’s with the people who use it and allow it to perpetuate thought and public opinion. YikYak is not to blame.
Judge: Thank you, Defense, you may rest. Student ambassadors, I need you to go. Jury, you have convened. What do you decide: is YikYak guilty or not guilty?
Your move, Duke.