Ask.fm ‘thoughts’ with family for suicide inquest

Controversial social networking website Ask.fm has said its thoughts are with the family of teenager Erin Gallagher as they prepare for the inquest into her death by suicide after she suffered online bullying on the site.

But the company, which relocated its headquarters to Ireland with promises to clean up its act after it was linked to a series of teen suicides around the world, would not say if it would send a representative to the hearing due to take place in Letterkenny on Wednesday.

It has also emerged that the Latvian-born company, which came to Ireland as Ask.fm Europe under new American ownership in 2014, has only had three employees here. The other four members of its seven-strong team were directors.

Accounts filed with the Companies Office in June show it made a loss of more than €7m in its first 14 months and that it is intending to cut its workforce.

It changed owners again last month in a surprise move, being taken over by California-based venture capitalists Noosphere Ventures, and the directors, including those who were Irish-based resigned.

Two new directors were appointed, a solicitor in Scotland and a businessman in Ukraine. The main operation has always remained in Riga, Latvia, where it was originally established in 2010 and where around 70 people are employed by Ask.fm SIA.

Ask.fm came to Ireland at a time when it was still under a cloud following the suicides of 13-year-old Erin Gallagher from Co Donegal and 15-year-old Ciara Pugsley from Co Leitrim in late 2012.

Their deaths were just two of at least nine that have been linked to online bullying on Ask.fm. Ciara Pugsley’s family believe she was bullied on the site and Erin Gallagher’s mother says her daughter’s suicide note specifically referred to the site.

The teenager’s inquest has been delayed for some time, initially because her family were left reeling from a second tragedy within weeks when Erin’s grieving sister, 15-year-old Shannon, also took her own life.

In a statement, new Ask.fm Europe director, Scottish-based solicitor Laura Edison, said the inquest was a “timely reminder of the heart-breaking effects bullying can have”.

“Our thoughts will be with Erin Gallagher’s mother and family during the inquest,” she said.

She encouraged anyone experiencing bullying to seek help, and said the new owners of Ask.fm were taking further steps to improve safety for users of the site.


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