IAC Buys Ask.fm, Pledges To Eliminate “Cyberbullying”

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Ask.fm’s reputation has become tarnished over the last few months with many suicides blamed on the site due to “cyber-bullying.” Prior to these news stories the majority of Internet denizens were largely unaware of the site. The company is based in Latvia and claims around 180 million monthly users in around 150 countries. Of this user base, around 40% of the users are under the age of 18. The site allows users to ask “friends” questions either publicly or anonymously and sees about 20,000 questions asked each minute. The company has a very strong user base with 45% of its mobile users logging in daily.

While the terms of the deal haven’t been made public, many media outlets are reporting that the co-founders, brothers Mark and Ilja Terebin, will be leaving the company. The two have been criticized for their hands-off approach to the site and have been directly blamed for a number of teen suicides. Following this criticism, the two did begin to hire monitors and moderators for the site but for many that was “too little, too late.”

More moderation and responsibility for Ask.fm

The company has about 60 employees and about half that number are moderators.

But that number is expected to significantly increase with Ask.fm’s purchase today.

“We wouldn’t be becoming involved in this if we didn’t think that there was a bunch more things we could do to make it significantly safer,” Doug Leeds, CEO of Ask.com, told the BBC recently.

“I’ve read the cases of what’s happened with certain individuals and they’re just heart-wrenching cases. (But) I really believe that we have the resources to bring to make this a significantly safer place so that these type of horribly tragic situations don’t happen in the future.”

David Cameron and NY Attorney General

Presumably, Leeds was speaking to the BBC due to Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for a boycott of the site following the suicide death of 14 year-old Hannah Smith.

“There’s something all of us can do as parents and as users of the internet, and that is not to use some of these vile sites. Boycott them, don’t go there, don’t join them – we need to do that as well,” said Cameron

As part of the purchase, IAC reached an agreement with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to put an end to “cyberbullying.”

“I applaud IAC’s leadership in working with our office to design a program that protects Ask.fm users from cyberbullying and other harmful content,” Schneiderman said in the statement. “We would hope that this collaboration serves as a useful model for other companies in the digital space.”

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