Ask.fm introduces changes to improve safety for teen users

Move comes in the wake of death of 14-year-old girl who was bullied online

Ask.fm, a controversial web site used by a 14-year-old British girl who ended her life after enduring months of online bullying has introduced a range of changes to make sure it is safe.

Ask.fm, a controversial web site used by a 14-year-old British girl who ended her life after enduring months of online bullying has introduced a range of changes to make sure it is safe.

 

Ask.fm, a controversial web site used by a 14-year-old British girl who ended her life after enduring months of online bullying has introduced a range of changes to make it safer.

Ask.fm co-founders Ilja and Mark Terebin said an audit into the site and its safety features, ordered in the wake of the death of Hannah Smith, had been completed, with changes set to include a more prominent “report button” on the site, and more staff hired to work as moderators.

It will also create an extra website for parents, as well as incentives to encourage people to register to use the site.

The question-and-answer website was heavily criticised in the wake of the death of Hannah, who allegedly endured months bullying on the site before being found hanged in her bedroom.

Hannah’s death had echoes of the deaths last year of two Irish teenagers, Ciara Pugsley (15) in Leitrim and Erin Gallagher (13) in Donegal. Both girls took their own lives after being subjected to alleged bullying campaigns on the site.

Specsavers, Vodafone, Laura Ashley, EDF Energy and charity Save the Children have all pulled adverts from the site in the wake of the deaths.

Ask.fm is working with Leicestershire Police concerning the death and instructed law firm Mishcon de Reya to carry out the audit of its site and safety features.

In a statement today, the site’s founders said: “At Ask.fm we want our users to be able to have fun, share information, make friends and express themselves freely. We also want them - particularly our younger users - to be able to do this in a safe environment.

“In the light of recent events highlighting the impact online bullying and harassment can have on young people, we engaged professional advisers to conduct a full and independent audit of our site and its safety features.

“This audit has now been completed. Based on the findings and the recommendations that were made, we can today announce our commitment to making changes to Ask.fm’s existing policies in three core areas: reporting and moderation, registration, and corporate visibility.”

Although people wanting to use ask.fm have to register an email address, name and date of birth, those posting messages can choose to do so anonymously.

Agencies