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Success! Ask.fm Unveils New Safety Policy After Teen Deaths

Success! Ask.fm Unveils New Safety Policy After Teen Deaths

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Smith, of Lutterworth, England, was found hanged in her bedroom on August 2.

In the weeks leading up to her death, Smith reportedly had been subjected to cruel taunts and insults on Ask.fm, a question-and-answer social networking site that allows anonymous participation, and has around 30 million users who are minors, out of a total of 60 million. In all, the site has been linked to the deaths of four teenagers in recent online bullying cases.

Success!

We asked for your help in telling Ask.fm to set up better safety measures to protect young people from horrific abuse. Almost 40,000 Care2 activists signed our petition urging the Latvian-based social media site to develop a better safety policy, and they listened. On August 19, less than three weeks after Hannah Smith’s death, the social networking site unveiled upcoming changes to address the issue.

The BBC reports that Ask.fm said it would:

•    Hire more staff, including a safety officer, to moderate comments on the site
•    Create a “bullying/harassment” category for reported comments, alongside “spam or scam,” “hate speech,” “violence” and “pornographic content”
•    Raise the visibility of a function to opt out of receiving anonymous questions
•    Limit the number of features unregistered users were able to access and require an email address upon sign-up for registered users

It also said that many of the changes would be live on the site by September.

The father of Hannah Smith welcomed the changes:

“I think it’s too late, but it’s not too little,” Dave Smith said in an interview with the BBC. “They’re actually taking a step forward and they’re making things safer for children on the internet.”

Smith went on to say that he didn’t believe that Ask.fm needed to be shut down, since it had shown it was ready to make its site safer. However, he did call on the government to bring in new regulations so that people are safe on the internet, and so that anyone who is abusive can get prosecuted for that.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that yet another teenager, 17-year-old Daniel Perry, had been urged to kill himself by anonymous users on Ask.fm in the months leading up to his death in July.

Perry had online conversations with someone he believed was a girl of the same age in the US. He committed suicide by jumping from a bridge in Scotland after a recording was used to try to blackmail him, and following a warning that he would be “better off dead” if he failed to pay up.

Cyber bullying is alarmingly common among young people: over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying. More than 50 percent of these young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.

By deciding to tighten up its safety procedures, Ask.fm is taking a step in the right direction, and this announcement has been welcomed by child safety experts.

The pressure to make it illegal to offer this kind of service to children without making sure they are who they say they are is important.

The UK Safer Internet Center announced that it was “delighted” by Ask.fm’s proposed changes and added that the increased visibility of the “anonymous opt-out option” was an important development. The group put out a statement advising users, especially children, to switch off anonymous questions and to report any abuse they see on the site.

These are important steps towards protecting our young people.

Thank you again for signing the Care2 petition.

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Photo Credit: screenshot from online BBC video

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80 comments

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7:52AM PST on Dec 21, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

6:03PM PST on Dec 20, 2013

Whether this will make a difference or not is questionable, unfortunately--it's putting the genie back in the bottle that proves difficult, after all. However, this website appears to be making an effort (as another commentator said, they kind of had to, given the situation, but still...). I've always believed safety should come first--in bicycling, in banking, and in online life too. We certainly can't rely on Ask.fm to monitor themselves--nor can we trust the site's teen clientele to be careful enough.

It's just an unfortunate situation, exacerbated by greedy Internet tycoons and careless minors. Or perhaps I'm just jaded.

10:42PM PST on Dec 9, 2013

Thanks

11:02AM PST on Dec 6, 2013

It's taking far too long for laws that prevent cyber-bullying to be created. This is so sad and both, student and their parents should be held responsible for this type of abuse.

2:06PM PST on Nov 6, 2013

11 Facts About Cyber Bullying

1. Nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online. 1 in 4 has had it happen more than once.
2. 70% of students report seeing frequent bullying online.
3. Over 80% of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most common medium for cyber bullying.
4. 68% of teens agree that cyber bullying is a serious problem.
5. 81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person.
6. 90% of teens who have seen social-media bullying say they have ignored it. 84% have seen others tell cyber bullies to stop.
7. Only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.
8. Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying.
9. About 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out 10 say it has happened more than once.
10. About 75% have visited a website bashing another student.
11. Bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide.

http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-cyber-bullying

1:42PM PDT on Sep 25, 2013

I think it is sad and sick that every year that goes by we as parents are losing are children more and more, younger and younger due to the internet and how the internet thinks it's okay what s happening and turns a blind eye to it. it's disgusting.

10:10AM PDT on Sep 22, 2013

The internet must be monitored and children must get less access to some of these sinister sites.Always tragic to hear these incidents.Lets hope that people will learn.

2:25AM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

Thanks for the good news Judy! But also it is not only ask.fm...
Proper education is what we really need!

2:21AM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

all fine but parents/guardians must take the brunt of the action

7:12AM PDT on Aug 27, 2013

And the parents......dont they look at what their kids watch,do talk to etc...?????

Good that the site has done something about it but as usual parents gets free of all blame!

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Judy Molland An award-winning writer and teacher, Judy Molland is also an avid hiker, backpacker, and nature... more
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