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Ask.fm: Correction from UK hotline

Last week I focused on the widely reported story about the Q&A-format social site Ask.fm in a post about the whack-a-mole tendency that surfaces whenever social cruelty shows up in Web sites young people use. My position on that hasn’t changed, but I do want to publish this correction about one point: In that post, I quoted a statement by a reporter at the UK-based Daily Mail that turns out to be inaccurate. The reporter wrote that “there is no way to report offensive comments” at Ask.fm. Laura Higgins, manager of the UK’s Safer Internet Helpline thoughtfully emailed me about the Helpline’s experience with Ask.fm (I doubt there’s a more credible source on this subject):

“I have been liaising with child protection practitioners in the UK to raise awareness of this issue, unfortunately the media have been spreading serious mistruths about the site, which is really unhelpful!! You CAN report abuse on the site, and you can also turn off the anonymous element. I have a direct contact with Mark Terebin and his team, and despite dozens of calls from concerned parents, I have not seen one example of the moderators not responding appropriately. They also work proactively with the cyber-crime department in Latvia who have no concerns about their handling of abuse. I am not in any way endorsing the site, it is a total breeding ground for hate speak, bullying and highly sexualized content … but I think it is really important that we are spreading the positive safety messages rather than the negative media version.” I agree with Laura and thank her for reaching out.

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