Indiana group signs letter calling for regulation of anonymous social media harassment

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 27, 2015) -- An Indiana group is one of dozens to sign a letter calling for colleges and universities to be held accountable for harassment on anonymous social media platforms.

The letter, sent to the U.S. Department of Education, focuses on anonymous sites like Yik Yak, which it says are being used on college campuses to threaten and harass students.

The National Association for Women's Indiana Chapter, led by President Heather Wildrick-Holman, signed on to the letter.

"We, in a lot of ways, have become desensitized to things that happen online," Wildrick-Holman said.

They are calling on the federal government to hold colleges accountable, particularly when it comes to harassment based on classes like gender, race, or religion.

"Technology is always changing, it’s always advancing and we always need to make sure ... that we’re staying up to date with protecting students on campuses," Wildrick-Holman said.

At Butler University, students are actively encouraged not to use anonymous social media platforms at all, according to Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Levester Johnson.

"Anonymous applications are probably our most challenging type of situation that we deal with," Johnson said.

Johnson said that students are encouraged to report harassment or threats, regardless of where they come from and that the school takes a proactive approach.

"What we do is try to partner with our undergraduate student government association and try to send out messages in order to encourage students not to participate in those anonymous-type websites," Johnson said.

Wildrick-Holman said she hoped schools would take it a step further and establish no-tolerance policies when it comes to anonymous harassment.

"I think bringing awareness to this helps foster a safer environment for all students," Wildrick-Holman said.

A spokesperson for the site Yik Yak sent FOX59 this statement:

"Guarding against misuse is something we take incredibly seriously. For our part, we work hard to encourage a positive and supportive community environment on Yik Yak. Today, we have a number of safeguards in place, and we’re constantly working to enhance our protective measures. We also support school administrators in their efforts to encourage positive behavior and discourage inappropriate activity, whether on campus or on any social platform."

According to the groups who authored the letter, the U.S. Department of Education is now conducting an investigation.