Hannah Smith death: We'll name anonymous trolls, say Ask.fm founders – as advertisers pull out

Boycott cyberbully sites, says David Cameron after 14-year-old took her life after troll comments

The founders of the controversial website Ask.fm, which has been linked to the suicides of five teenagers, said they were working to improve its safety amid a growing backlash by advertisers and mounting public anger.

In an open letter Latvian entrepreneurs Mark and Ilja Terebin expressed sympathy over the death of Hannah Smith, 14, who took her own life last week after being subjected to a torrent of abuse by anonymous users of the site.

Prime Minister David Cameron called for a boycott of what he described as “vile” websites and said he was determined to take action to prevent further tragedies.

Meanwhile, advertisers including eBay, EDF Energy, The Sun, Laura Ashley, Specsavers, Vodafone and Save the Children withdrew advertising in a corporate stampede to disassociate themselves from Ask.fm.

In their letter the Terebin brothers, who founded the site in their native Riga in 2010 and have since watched it soar to 65m users worldwide, said they did not condone bullying.

 “We are constantly working to improve our site including its safety features. We are currently working on a series of updates with more safety features and information,” they said.

“The vast majority of our users are happy teenagers who use Ask.fm to converse with their peers around the world about the things that interest them. Bullying is an age-old problem that we in no way condone – and while its evolution online is disturbing – it certainly is not unique to our site,” they added.

The brothers also said that in "extreme circumstances such as those we've experienced this week" they would be prepared to identify anonymous users via their computers' IP addresses and "ensure this information is accessible to the appropriate legal authorities."

Concern over the site emerged again this week after Hannah, 14, was found dead at her home in Leicestershire.

She had been urged by on-line bullies to cut herself and drink bleach. Her death followed that of Lancashire schoolboy Joshua Unsworth who died in March and two Irish teenagers, Ciara Pugsley, 15, and Erin Gallagher, 13, who took their own lives last year.

Jessica Laney, 16, was found dead at her home in Florida in December.

Many of the companies were unaware their products were appearing on the site, in which young people are encouraged to ask each other questions. Advertising is bundled up and sold on by agencies appearing as banners on the computers of users whose consumer habits are flagged up by imbedded “cookies” which track their interests.

Mr Cameron said parents and users should stop using the sites. “The people that operate these websites have got to step up to the plate and show some responsibility in the way that they run these websites,” he said.

Police in Halifax, Canada yesterday made two arrests in connection with the death of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, following a suicide attempt. A photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted had been shared online.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Extras
indybest
News
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
people
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Digital Project Manager / Web Project Manager

£45-50k (DOE) + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced ...

Account Manager

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Account Manager to join ...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home