DUBLIN, Nov. 5, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Ask.com, the leading online Q&A brand, acquired a controlling interest in Ask.fm in August 2014, with the express intention of improving safety on the service, which attracts 180 million users around the world every month. Under Ask.com ownership, Ask.fm has made a long-term commitment to safety, which includes substantial investment in improving moderation, hiring safety experts and creating partnerships with government and law enforcement authorities. Moving the Ask.fm headquarters to Dublin, Ireland where parent company Ask.com already has corporate presence and infrastructure – news the company made public on Monday 3 November – is key to the company's safety strategy and plans for the future.
The 3 November news also included updates to policies and terms of service in an effort to provide new and enhanced information to the Ask.fm user community in important areas, such as how to block and report users or problematic content, how to disable the service's anonymous feature and/or block anonymous questions, as well as to provide more explanation of Ask.fm safety controls and guidelines.
As an Irish company, Ask.fm is dedicated to cooperating fully with the Irish Government to fulfill its safety objectives. The company has been and plans to continue proactively engaging Irish regulators, as well as various children and youth-focused ministries in Ireland, concerning its relocation to Dublin. Ask.fm's pending appointment of a law enforcement liaison in Dublin will provide Irish law enforcement authorities immediate access to identify and prosecute those responsible for any criminal or abusive activity. Ask.fm views a healthy partnership with Irish Government and local law enforcement as critical to materially improving the safety of its service.
Statement from Doug Leeds, CEO of Ask.com
"I personally am committed to making Ask.fm a safer and more positive experience. Furthermore, I would never have become involved with Ask.fm at all if I didn't believe we could materially change it for the better. Improving Ask.fm won't be a quick or easy process, but it's one that began from the minute we acquired the service. It's also a process that every single person at the company, and myself specifically, is steadfastly committed to."
On the Ask.fm commitment to holding persons on the service accountable:
"While the ability to ask anonymous questions will remain on the site, all registered users on Ask.fm have known profiles, just as they do on most social networks. They can use a feature that allows them to ask questions of other users anonymously. However, use of this feature does not mean they are anonymous to us. We have means to identify them, and where appropriate, we have and will continue to provide their identifying information to law enforcement. Our upcoming appointment of a law enforcement liaison officer located in Ireland will make it even easier for local law enforcement authorities to identify and prosecute those responsible for any criminal or abusive activity."
On the Ask.fm commitment to educating and empowering its user community:
"No user ever has to ask or receive an anonymous question while on Ask.fm. Ask.fm currently provides its users the ability to block other users and/or all anonymous questions. Our new terms and policies are designed to make it abundantly clear how to use these features to better educate and empower our users to control their Ask.fm experience. We will continue to make improvements to the service in order to provide even more readily available access to safety tools."
A renewed focus on safety:
"Upon acquiring Ask.fm in August 2014, we immediately took the following actions:
- We changed the leadership on the day of acquisition. The founders of Ask.fm have no role in the current operations of the company.
- We committed to invest substantively in moderation and intervention technologies to protect teen audiences from inappropriate content and get them the help and support they need. The process for overhauling moderation on the site began on the day of acquisition.
- We appointed Annie Mullins OBE as the UK and Europe safety lead for Ask.fm. Annie has spent more than 15 years as a child and teen safety advocate advising the UK government and leading NGOs on adolescent safety online, as well as serving 10 years as Vodafone's Global Head of Content Standards. She was also head of social policy for Yahoo UK. Annie will bring her nearly 20 years of experience in online safety policy, adolescent research and education to bear on the oversight of digital safety operations in the UK and Europe, working closely with Ms. Teitelbaum to ensure a safer, more positive experience for young people on the platform.
- We appointed online safety expert and digital media veteran, Catherine Teitelbaum, as Chief Trust and Safety Officer, overseeing all safety-related product, policy and operational initiatives for the global Ask.fm user community. Ms. Teitelbaum has held senior positions with Yahoo! Inc., including Director of Global Safety and Product Policy, and for more than a decade oversaw digital safety operations, educational programming and policy initiatives at Yahoo!."
"Within the next six months, we are committed to:
- Overhauling Ask.fm's safety and moderation policies and procedures.
- Investing millions of dollars into technology and systems for moderation. This will include putting in place filters to catch and remove violent, illegal, threatening or harassing content. This process has already begun, and we are already making significant improvements.
- Making it easier for users to report content that they find distressing.
- Establishing a Safety Advisory Board with the top thinkers and experts in digital safety from around the world.
- Better understanding new and emerging behaviours and cries for help, such as the phenomenon of sending oneself harassing or bullying messages online, so that we can help and support those who need it.
- Partnering with leading mental health and suicide prevention organisations to best support users in crisis.
- Creating a new online Safety Center, including information to help parents and others with responsibility for younger audiences such as teachers, to help guide conversations with teens about the safe use of social media.
- Reviewing and launching new community guidelines to encourage responsible use of the service."