Yik Yak is a mobile application which allows users to anonymously interact with each other within a 5 mile radius, originally designed for people in college and older to be used for quick dissemination of information such as public service announcements to celebrity visits to campus. For example, when University of Alabama’s weather alert system went down due to severe snow storms, many students found out about campus closing through Yik Yak.
However, the application became a major problem when high and middle school students used the anonymity the application provides to engage in cyberbullying and terror threats.
Although in cases of bombing and school shooting threats, the perpetrators were caught by the law enforcement with the aid of Yik-Yak, the cyberbullies have been elusive and school officials had difficulty enforcing disciplinary actions on them.
In some of these cyberbullying cases, the harassment included malicious comments to poking fun at someone getting raped, and these problems led to some school officials urging parents to make their kids delete the application.
In response, Brooks Buffington, co-founder of Yik Yak commented, “We don’t approve of bullying at all and hate to see our app being used in that way, so we’re doing everything we possibly can to prevent it from being misused. Hopefully by the end of this week, the vast majority of all middle schools and high schools all across the United States will be geo-fenced and the app will be disabled on school grounds.”
Geofencing is a method which prevents applications from working in certain geographic areas through GPS tracking, and in this specific case, on middle and high school grounds. “The message [to students where the app is blocked] is something along the lines of, ‘it looks like you’re trying to use Yik Yak on a middle school or high school grounds. Yik Yak is intended for people college-aged and above. The app is disabled in this area,” said Buffington.
It is reported that Yik Yak will have shut off access to 85% of middle and high school students across the United States by the end of the week.