8th August 2013
The father of Hannah Smith, the 14 year-old teenager who committed suicide after being bullied online, has called for the owners of Ask.fm to be charged with manslaughter.
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Dave Smith, speaking to the Daily Mirror, accused the owners of not caring about the consequences of bullying on the site. He said: "The people that run it should get done for manslaughter or murder because you try contacting them and they don't care. These websites should be got rid of, if nothing else they need to be regulated and they need to stop people from doing this." Mr Smith continued: "If David Cameron was sitting here now I would want to know why he hasn't done something about this six, 12 – two years ago. Modern technology has gone on but the laws have stuck the same."
The Prime Minister said yesterday that it was something he worried about as the father of three young children. He added that the government is considering meaasures to help parents manage the dangers to children on the internet, citing filters to block online pornography as an example. Speaking to the BBC, Mr Cameron said: "It's not the case that there's nothing we can do just because it's online. I think there are some steps that need to be taken. First of all, the people that run these websites have got to step up to the plate, clean up their act and show some responsibility. It's not acceptable what's allowed to happen on these sites. It's their responsibility, and those posting these hateful remarks, first and foremost."
He added: "Just because something is done online doesn't mean that it's legal. If you incite hatred, if you incite violence, that's a crime whether you do it in a television studio, on a soapbox or online and so these people can be chased. If websites don't clean up their act and don't sort themselves out then we as members of the general public have got to stop using these particular sites and boycott them."
The Ask.fm website enables users to post anonymous questions and messages, some of which have allegedly led to several teenagers taking their lives after being the target of abuse on the site. Hannah Smith did so after being bombarded with messages urging her to kill herself and criticising her appearance. It emerged today that her elder sister has also been targeted on the site.
Ask.fm has called Hannah's death a "true tragedy" and said it is cooperating with the investigation launched by Leicestershire Police.
The Lativan-based site said in a statement that it actively "encourages users and their parents to report any incidences of bullying", either via the in-site reporting button, or the website's contact page. The statement continued: "All reports are read by our team of moderators to ensure that genuine concerns are heard and acted upon immediately – and we always remove content reported to us that violates our Terms of Service."