Ask.fm 'will be safer from online bullying' as owners introduce new features

Website owners have introduced a range of new features that aim to keep users safer from abuse

Ask.fm, the website used regularly by 14-year-old Hannah Smith before she ended her life, has announced a series of changes it will make to ensure it protects users from online bullying.

In the aftermath of the teenagers death it was discovered that Hannah had endured months of online abuse from other users of the question-and-answer site.

Ask.fm co-founders Ilja and Mark Terebin said an audit ordered in the wake of Hannah's death into the site and its safety features has now been completed. Changes set to be made will include a more prominent “report button” on the site, and more staff hired to work as moderators.

It said it would review all reports within 24 hours of them being made and will limit the number of features unregistered users are able to access. New users will have to provide an email address upon sign-up.

It will also create a separate website for parents, and will introduce incentives to encourage people to register with the site.

The website came under a flurry of controversy after it was discovered that Hannah was tormented by users over her weight and the death of a family member 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 today, 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, has called for an immediate change in the law to protect vulnerable youngsters. He revealed today that he had forbidden Hannah from using the site, but she had carried on using it secretly despite his ban.

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."

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