Latvian based, social media site Ask.fm has attracted further criticism this week after it’s co-founder issued a statement accusing children in Ireland and the UK of being ‘crueller’ than other countries.
Ask.fm did not respond to the Leitrim Observer’s requests for statement in the days following the death of 15 year old Ciara Pugsley, who experienced extreme bullying through the anonymous site in the months before her suicide.
However in a statement issued to RTE’s Frontline programme earlier this week, ask.fm co-founder, Mark Terebin said: “we do understand the gravity of the situation and I sympathise with Ciara Pugsley’s family.
“Of course there is a problem with cyber-bullying in social media. But, as far as we can see, we only have this siutaiton in Ireland and the UK most of all, trust me. There are no complaints regarding cyberbulling from parents, children, or other sources in other countries. It seems like children are crueller in these countries (Ireland and UK).”
A quick check on the internet by our staff would seem to dispute this claim with a search uncovering a wide number of complaints about the site from parents and even education facilities across Europe and America.
On June 7 this year parents of children attending the Scarsdale Middle School in New York were sent an official email from the school warning them against the use of the website ask.fm.
In the email parents were told that the school had been been aware that students had been using the site to “post hurtful and inappropriate materiral”.
Concerns were also raised about the anonymous nature of the site and parents were encouraged to check if their children were using the site and to strictly monitor use.
Ask.fm has also been named as a website of concern on a number of American parenting sites and is named on several websites encouraging stricter regulation of social media in the UK, Ireland and America in particular.
Since Ciara’s suicide a massive on-line campaign has started to have Ask.fm closed. But speaking on Frontline on Monay night, Jonathan Pugsley, Ciara’s father, said he was not in favour of closing such sites as another one would simply be opened to replace it.
He said that there was “some moral responsiblity” on sites like Ask.fm to monitor and prevent bullying and said that there needed to be a judicial review set up to tackle the issue of cyberbullying.
While many other countries have put in place strict legislation on bullying and stalking via social media, Ireland has not been so pro-active.
Mr Pugsley said, “Ask.fm is not a nice site. It’s not a nice site because it’s totally anonymous” and many experts are suggesting that some method of tracking those who persistently use social media to abuse others be introduced so that criminal charges could be brought against the perpetrators.