Weak Response to Harassment

Lauren Williams, Staff Writer

 Ask.fm s is a website where users, many of whom are under 18, ask their peers questions anonymously. These pages are open to the public. Unlike other social media sites, anyone is able to access an Ask.fm profile page and read all of the content, which may include private information such as personal cell phone numbers.

Some of the 70 million registered users of Ask.fm have used the site as a form of cyber-bullying.

Because they remain anonymous they can get away with rude and harsh comments without consequence.

People who are not registered cannot be asked questions directly, but they can still post content.

Since the site started in 2010, there have been 9 suicides linked to Ask.fm. One death linked to the site was Hannah Smith, a 14 year old, who received messages that told her to drink bleach and cut herself. Months after she received the comments, she was found hanged, in her room.

Executives of the website have responded to these tragedies by introducing new features, such as making the report button more noticeable. This is supposed to make people more likely to report degrading questions.

Although these changes have been made, the anonymous harassment has continued.

Ask.fm has said that they plan to hire more staff to monitor the content of comments on the site. Even with more staff, I don’t see how they plan to supervise 70 million different users. Ask.fm’s poor efforts to eliminate the bullying means that unfortunately, the site will continue to be a toxic environment.

The site needs to take the initiative and intervene when online feuds erupt. The issue could additionally be addressed  if Ask.fm administered consequences by suspending or even deleting the accounts of those who cross the line.

For example, Ask.fm should attribute inappropriate comments, exposing the author if the question is reported by other users. Ultimately, Ask.fm should reveal the authors of every post on the website. People should take responsibility for remarks, especially when they may impact the emotional well being of others.

Ask.fm currently allows cyber-bullying to reach heights. The modest efforts of Ask.fm to curb bullying on its site will not be effective; the only way to solve the anonymous bullying issue is to either attribute all posts to registered users or delete the site altogether.

Sadly, as long as technology continues to be a central part of daily life, harassment on social media will continue.