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Ask.fm now safer after Hannah death
A controversial website used by a 14-year-old who ended her life after enduring months of online bullying has introduced a range of changes to make sure it is safe.
Ask.fm co-founders Ilja and Mark Terebin said an audit into the site and its safety features, ordered in the wake of the death of Hannah Smith, has now been completed, with changes set to include a more prominent "report button" on the site, and more staff hired to work as moderators. It will also create an extra website for parents, as well as incentives to encourage people to register to use the site.
The question-and-answer website was heavily criticised in the wake of the death of Hannah, from Lutterworth, Leicestershire, who endured months of torment on the site before being found hanged in her bedroom.
Specsavers, Vodafone, Laura Ashley, EDF Energy and charity Save the Children all pulled adverts from Ask.fm, which pledged to work with Leicestershire Police concerning the death and instructed law firm Mishcon de Reya to carry out the audit of its site and safety features.
In a statement, the site's founders said: "At Ask.fm we want our users to be able to have fun, share information, make friends and express themselves freely. We also want them - particularly our younger users - to be able to do this in a safe environment.
"In the light of recent events highlighting the impact online bullying and harassment can have on young people, we engaged professional advisers to conduct a full and independent audit of our site and its safety features.
"This audit has now been completed. Based on the findings and the recommendations that were made, we can today announce our commitment to making changes to Ask.fm's existing policies in three core areas: reporting and moderation, registration, and corporate visibility."
Hannah's father, David Smith, who has called for an immediate change in the law to protect vulnerable youngsters and to prevent further tragedies, revealed that he had banned Hannah from using the site, but she had carried on in secret.
Mr Smith told ITV's Daybreak programme: "I had already told Hannah to stay off Ask.fm because the school actually sent a text out saying 'Keep your kids off Ask.fm'. I told her to stay off it, but with Ask.fm it's very difficult to find it on the computer anyway."
In its statement, Ask.fm said its changes include reviewing all reports made using the report button within 24 hours, and hiring more staff to act as moderators, including a Safety Officer to take overall responsibility for moderation at the site. The report button itself will be more prominent, the site said, and "bullying/harassment" will be introduced as a category alongside the existing categories of "spam or scam", "hate speech", "violence" and "pornographic content", and an option allowing users to opt out of receiving anonymous questions will be more prominent.