Ask.fm changes safety policy – promises quicker response to bullying reports

19 Aug 2013

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The controversial social media service Ask.fm – which has been linked to the suicides of teenagers in Ireland and the UK following online bullying – has pledged to make bullying and harassment a report category and to view all reports within 24 hours. It has also promised to make the report button more visible.

Ask.fm today said it would implement changes live on its network by September.

It said it would hire more staff, including a safety officer, to moderate comments on the site.

A bullying and harassment category for reported comments will now sit alongside “hate speech”, “scam/spam”, “violence” and “pornographic content.”

Ask.fm came under considerable pressure in the last few weeks after 14-year-old Hannah Smith hanged herself at her family home in Leicestershire after being taunted on Ask.fm, presumably by other teenagers. The tragedy echoed the suicides last year of Irish teens Ciara Pugsley (14) from Leitrim, and Erin Gallagher (13) and her sister Shannon (15) from Donegal, who are understood to have been harassed on the Ask.fm site.

The site was established in Latvia in 2010 as a rival to Formspring and one of its main uses by teenagers is to be able to ask questions anonymously and receive responses anonymously.

In Ireland, the Government’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Dr Geoffrey Shannon has recommended that cyberbullying and indeed any form of harassment using technology needs to be included in legislation and made a criminal offence in Ireland.

In addition, an investigation into cyberbullying via social network sites by an Oireachtas Committee has recommended new rules whereby social networks active in Ireland, employers and school principals will be expected to take swift action where cases of bullying arise.

Cyberbullying image via Shutterstock

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com