August 15th 2014
The social network Ask.fm – the subject of considerable controversy and allegedly a link to teenage suicides – has been sold by its founders to the owners of Tinder and Ask.com for an undisclosed sum.
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The Riga, Latvia based site, on which members answer questions posed by others, has come under considerable pressure for not taking sufficient steps to prevent cyberbullying. The new owner, US-based IAC, says it will invest heavily to improve safety on the site. The founders – Latvian brothers Ilja and Mark Terebin – will leave the firm.
The office of New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, announced a safety agreement linked with the site's sale: "Under the terms of the agreement, Ask.fm will revamp its safety policies and procedures." The agreement includes a commitment by Ask.fm to deal with user complaints within 24 hours and remove who have been the subject of multiple complaints. The statement goes on to say: "An independent safety and security examiner will be appointed to examine the changes and report on compliance to the Attorney General's Office for three years."
In the four years since it has started, Ask.fm's membership has grown to180 million monthly users, with around 700 posts made every second.
The suicides of 14-year-old Hannah Smith, Irish teenager Ciara Pugsley and other youngsters have been attributed to abuse on the site. More recently, Islamic extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria are alleged to have used the site as a recruiting medium.