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Ask.fm announces plan to implement safety measures

Warwick Ashford

The controversial Latvia-based question-and-answer website Ask.fm has announced safety measures after UK teenager Hannah Smith (pictured) killed herself after months of online bullying on the site.

Ask.fm called in law firm Mishcon de Reya to conduct an audit of the site and its safety features after the girl’s death.

Hannah_Smith.jpg

In response to that audit, the site said it will make the “report” button more visible, include bullying or harassment as a report category and investigate any reports of abusive behaviour within 24 hours.

Users will also be able to report spam, scams, hate speech, violence and pornographic content.

Ask.fm said it will raise the visibility of the button to opt out of receiving anonymous questions, hire more staff to moderate content on the site and create incentives for users to register.

By requiring users to register for full access to the service, Ask.fm said it would be able to capture the email and IP addresses of users and be better equipped to deal with reports.

Father calls for UK action

The father of 14-year-old Hannah Smith from Lutterworth, Leicestershire, welcomed the changes, but said they had come too late, according to the BBC.

David Smith called on the UK government to do more, such as introducing regulations to prosecute web users who are abusive on the internet.

Smith said he would like to see people held accountable for their actions online and, if they are abusing others, they should be identified and punished.

The UK Safer Internet Centre has advised young users to switch off anonymous questions and to report any abuse they see.

In July, 1.4 million people in the UK visited Ask.fm, according internet research company Comscore.

Prime minister enters fray

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has called for a boycott of all websites that fail to tackle online abuse.

In July, he announced that the UK is to block online pornography by default to all new internet users, who will have to ask for filters to be turned off if they want access.

All existing users will be contacted by their internet providers by the end of 2014 and given the option to activate “family friendly” filters or not.

This week, it emerged that 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.

He is also believed to have faced threats that images and videos on his laptop would be made public if he did not send money to an account.

Almost one in five children who use social networking sites experience harassment or abuse, according to a report from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).


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