Who is Going to Help Shut Down Ask.fm?

Maybe you’ve head of social network Ask.fm, but even if you haven’t, what if I told your that there exists a social network site that gladly takes U.S. members but:

  • Chooses not to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and other such laws outside of the U.S. and
  • Has been the reported cause of numerous teen suicides

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 7.09.53 AMAsk.fm is the brainchild of Lativan extrpreneurs and functions principally as a question and answer site. The amount of personal information that users provide at sign up is entirely up to the users, and the normal age limit of 13 is not at all imposed by the site. If new users do not put full identity information in their profile, they are prompted again after signup to provide name, location, age and sex. All profiles are set to public.

According to media reports, ask.fm now has 57 million users, over half of which are under 18. The worst part of the site is not its lax privacy guidelines, but rather what the site has become, and what is acceptable there.

A not atypical exchange would be for a teenage girl to ask, “Am I pretty?” or something similar. Responses could come from friends and strangers alike, and given the free for all on the network, “You’re ugly”, “You’re fat” and “You should kill yourself” and all too common. I’m sure that parents who are in the dark do not want their teens expose to such harsh, unmoderated bullying.

The Maryland Attorney General has urged action against ask.fm, but I haven’t heard much in the way of protest or indignation from other parties, other than the press. Let’s hope some other interested parties get involved.

 

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