Earlier this morning, Senator Ted Cruz declared his candidacy for President of the United States before a packed auditorium at Liberty University. But while most reporters dutifully wrote down his promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act and get rid of the IRS, a strikingly large number of scribes turned to a new resource to get a fresh take on an otherwise by-the-numbers story: Yik Yak.
Yik Yak, the location-based social media app that allows users to chat anonymously with other people within a ten-mile radius, is particularly popular among colleges students. While thousands of Liberty University students cheered Cruz’s speech, a few took to Yik Yak to share some less enthusiastic sentiments. And some members of the media perked up, took notice, and suggested that the Yik Yak chatter, not the applause, was a better sampling of how these students really felt.
Vox noticed that the Yak space quickly filled up with snark: “Can I leave now?” “Worst. TedTalk. Ever.” Getting tired of Cruz’s “imagine a president” refrain, one student wrote, “Did John Lennon write this speech or what”
There are several ethical considerations here. There’s a concern of confirmation bias. (Disclosure: I deleted Yik Yak recently, simply because the content seemed so relentlessly negative or, at best, a place to pseudo-anonymously vent.) And there’s just something about reporting content from another platform that should give a reporter pause.
But the idea is out there now, confirmation bias, anonymity or other ethical considerations aside.
I’d approach this idea of quote-mining with caution.