In just one year, at least seven teens have committed suicide after being bullied on social networking site Ask.fm. After a chorus of criticism from victims’s families and supporters, inlcluding calls to boycott the site entirely, Ask.fm has finally responded with something more than a press release.
The controversial Q&A site announced on Monday that it would make its report abuse button more prominent and add a "bullying/harassment" category to the report form,
It also plans to hire more moderators and reduce access to some features for unregistered users. WIth a beefed-up staff, the company is pledging to view all flagged content within a day. The Latvia-based site will add “some” of the changes by next month but did not elaborate, the BBC reported.
Ask.fm hired a law firm to audit the site and its safety features following the death of Hannah Smith earlier this month. The 14-year-old was found hanging in her Lutterworth, England, home after anonymous bullies attacked her on the site.
Hannah’s death followed at least half a dozen others since last September that are linked to bullying on the site. Ask.fm trolls also urged Daniel Perry, a 17-year-old Scot who took his own life after being blackmailed through Skype last month, to kill himself in the months before his death.
Hanna’s father, Dave Smith, welcomed the extra safety features, though he insisted the U.K. government needs tougher regulations for dealing with online abuse.
"I think it's too late, but it's not too little," Smith told the BBC. "They're actually taking a step forward and they're making things safer for children on the internet."
Earlier this month, figures from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children indicated teen bullies are increasingly moving to the Internet, where they can harass victims with less accountability.