Reading the first line of the prompt, I was initially confused about how an app could be or could be acting in a way that was ethically wrong. Then I immediately thought of Yik Yak, the social media app created by two frat brothers from Georgia that “became a ~400 million in just 365 days”.
As I am sure that we are all familiar (or somewhat familiar) with, Yik Yak is an app that allows individuals in the same area to post pictures and text anonymously to a forum-type discussion thread that is visible to anyone who has the app within a 1.5 mile radius. Though I’m not sure exactly how revenue is being generated through the app, Yik Yak is booming with investors funding its growth and enabled the founders to move out of their parents’ houses (yay?) and into an office.
While the app may serve as an efficient way of posting announcements and having discussions with peers in places such as college campuses, the “anonymity also encourages people to become the worst versions of themselves, and teenagers quickly resorted to being just that on Yik Yak”. Yik Yak has faced a lot of backlash for this very reason – in a generation where there has been way too many cases of cyber bullying, Yik Yak only serves as another means for people to hurt others without being accountable for it. Is this moral?
From a consequentialism point of view, I would argue that the co-founders should remove some of the anonymity from the app or delete it altogether (easier said than done, I agree). “The consequences are all that matters” in the consequentialism point of view and more people are being hurt through the posts people are making than the people benefitting from them because yes, we already know for the 100th time that if one more person pulls the fire alarm in Vedder at 3am, you’re going to lose it. Not only are the things being posted on Yik Yak affecting people on an individual level, but there have also been several instances of bomb threats being posted on Yik Yak that required the evaluation of schools in both Alabama and Massachusetts.
When the action (the posts being made) are done, what is left is a distraught young girl who “reads yaks that not only mentioned her depression but encourages it”, hundreds of students who have to miss a day of school, police and firefighters who comb through every inch of the school to make sure its safe, etc.
The deontology (or Kantian) point of view considers ethics based on a person/corporation’s intentions. Therefore, I think that someone analyzing Yik Yak from this point of view would also argue that the deletion of Yik Yak would be necessary in order to remove the interface that allows people to post things that negatively affects the greater population. I admit that I scroll through Yik Yak sometimes when I am bored, but I can’t say that my life would be any different if it ceased to exist.