UK: A 14-year-old girl has hanged herself after an alleged onslaught of bullying on the social networking site. The media reported that Hannah Smith is one of at least five suicides linked to cyber-bullying on the site. Her father is campaigning to get the social network Ask.fm, which is used by many SA teens, shut down.
An expert was quoted as calling the Latvian site a "stalker's paradise", and it's clear from just a short visit that almost anything goes. Users, mostly teens, are asked questions to which they respond in either short answers or even by uploading images of themselves. Profiles are easily created, and it would not be hard for anyone with even basic internet knowledge to create a fake online profile.
The site is open to anyone and there is definite evidence that sex is one of the most discussed topics. Some of the conversations are innocent and flirtatious but there are frequent lewd or obscene references made.
Hannah had been the victim of on-going abuse on the site for some time, according to her dad, and anonymous users had been urging her to drink bleach and kill herself and calling her "ugly".
Posts by trolls on her page included these:
"u ugly f*** go die evry1 wuld be happy",
"do us all a favour n kill ur self", and
"go comit suicide".
According to Ask.fm, Children must be at least 13 years old to sign up to the site, but there's nothing to stop them lying when registering, according to the Mail Online. The site asks only for a name, email address and date of birth. Most sign up via their Facebook pages, automatically notifying their 'Facebook friends' that they've joined ask.fm.
The site's "terms of service" include an extensive disclaimer which explains:
"The ask.fm service allows for anonymous content which ask.fm does not monitor. You agree to use the ask.fm service at your own risk and that ask.fm shall have no liability to you for content that you may find objectionable, obscene or in poor taste.'"
It also lacks any reporting mechanisms for said objectionable content.
It has no privacy settings and has allegedly been used by schoolkids to bully classmates by using anonymous identities.
Photos are easily uploaded, and, once online, can be used to bully kids or for coercion/extortion.
Some parents report only having found out that their children have Ask.fm accounts when checking up on their online activities. In the UK schools have warned parents of the danger, but in SA it would appear that many parents are not aware of this site which potentially exposes children to sexual imagery, cyber-bullying and online grooming by pedophiles.