by Henry Thornton
The popular anonymous message board app Yik Yak is embroiled in controversy. Cofounders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington are allegedly, in a lawsuit recently filed to the Georgia State Court, to have illegally ousted their former partner, the plaintiff, Douglas Warstler. The three men were students at Furman University together and were all brothers in the Kappa Alpha fraternity.
Yik Yak allows users to see all posts by other Yik Yak users in a 1.5 mile radius. Every user can up-vote or down-vote the posts in their feed. All posts are completely anonymous. This app has become immensely popular on American college campuses. The company claims to have a user base in over 1,300 colleges. Yik Yak was the third attempt at an app by Droll and Buffington. It was made while they were working together in Atlanta the year after their graduation from Furman. Warstler was still a senior at Furman. The app was developed while the three men were working un-der a joint partnership of their own creation called Locus Engineering. The three men all owned an “To cover this up and erase any evidence of Plaintiff’s ownership, Buffington and Droll dissolved the company under which they and the plaintiff co-developed and co-owned Yik Yak, and transferred the company’s only asset — the Yik Yak application — into a newly created company,” the suit claims.
According to the suit, Buffington texted Warstler that “‘You’re not get-ting screwed out of any-thing,’” and it says that he and Droll offered to buy out Warstler’s shares of the company. The suit claims that when Warstler refused to sell, Buffing-ton and Droll dissolved the company out from un-der him. Buffington said in an email, according to the suit. “Between Brooks and I, we jointly own all of the intellectual property of Yik Yak and Locus Engineering has no stake in it.”
The company released a statement calling the cation “entirely devoid of merit” and vowed to “vigorously defend this litigation.” According to Forbes.com, “Yik Yak has had a tremendous rise since January, when Warstler was removed from the company. The app raised $10 million in venture capital funding in April.” Yik Yak is no stranger to controversy. The anonymous nature of its format combined with a user base made up al-most entirely of young people have garnered it many negative headlines. Mira Costa high school in California had to close for two days after bomb threats were made on Yik Yak. Staples High School in Westport Connecticut was brought to its knees due to the intense cyber-bullying on their local Yik Yak. A Google search reveals dozens more head-lines that lead to articles with large similarities to Mira Costa and Westport. In March Yik Yak chose to use GPS technology to ban itself on middle and high school campuses.
The Sewanee Yik Yak feed is quite active. The most popular post on campus this year received 190 up-votes. The amount of users on Sewanee’s campus couldn’t be found, but after examining the popularity of many posts, there seems to be at least 200 active users of Yik Yak at Sewanee, which means the total install base on campus is probably much higher.
Some colleges, like Lewis and Clark College in Oregon, had decided to ban the app from cam-pus. Casey Quinn (C’18), an avid user of Yik Yak, bemoaned the possibility of something similar happening at Sewanee. “Yik Yak is the most democratic form of discourse” he claims “the popular stuff goes up and everything else moves down.”