Summary: After a UK teen took her own life in response to bullying on social networking site, ask.fm, her father asked both the site and the UK government to take corrective measures to prevent further tragedies. This wasn't an isolated incident. Reports linked multiple suicides to bullying on the teen-centered site.
Ask.fm's problems with bullying and other abuse appeared to be far greater than those observed on other social media sites. Part of this appeared to be due to the site's user base, which was much younger than more-established social media platforms. This -- combined with the option to create anonymous accounts -- seemed to have made ask.fm a destination for abusive users. What moderation existed before these problems became headline news was apparently ineffective, resulting in a steady stream of horrific stories until the site began to make serious efforts to curb a problem now too big to ignore.
Ask.fm's immediate response to both the teen's father and UK Prime Minister David Cameron's criticism (Cameron called for a boycott of the site) was to point to existing moderation efforts put in place to deter bullying and other terms of service violations.
After major companies pulled their advertising, ask.fm pledged to assist police in investigating the circumstances behind the teen's suicide, as well as consult with a law firm to see if moderation efforts could be improved. It also hired more moderators and a safety officer, and made its "Report" button more prominent.
More than a year after ask.fm became the target of criticism around the world, the site implemented its first Safety Advisory Board. The group of experts on teens and their internet use was tasked with reducing the amount of bullying on the platform and making it safer for its young users.
Decisions to be made by ask.fm:
Questions and policy implications to consider:
Resolution: When immediate steps did little to deter criticism, ask.fm formed a Safety Committee and, ultimately, dismissed founders that appeared to be unresponsive to users' concerns. The site made changes to its moderation strategies, hired more moderators, and made users more aware of the features they could use to report users and avoid unwanted interactions.
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