Thomas C. Gallagher, Jr.
85 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 922
Since its launch in late 2013, Yik Yak, a location-based application that
permits users to post on local, virtual message boards targeted at university
campuses, has become a massive headache for universities who are responsible,
under Department of Education guidelines, for maintaining a safe environment
for their students. These message boards have become a breeding
ground for personal attacks, sexual harassment, bigotry, and threats of mass
violence, which have caused huge disruptions to educational environments.
Yik Yak, however, is not responsible for the messages being posted; it is responsible
only for creating and placing virtual bulletin boards on college campuses,
which the institutions have no ability to regulate. Through guidance
letters issued over the last five years, the Department of Education has warned
universities that they may be responsible for adequately responding to incidents
and environments of harassment that occur on their campuses, regardless
of the medium through which the harassment occurs. Because Yik Yak’s
Global Positioning System (“GPS”) located virtual message boards are no
different than if someone walked onto the school grounds and placed a message
board on the physical campus without the school’s permission, this Note
proposes universities use the traditional property law action of trespass to exclude
the Yik Yak application from campuses.