Minister tweets concern at Ask.fm move to Ireland

A government minister has said he was "concerned" at the relocation to Ireland of the headquarters of a website linked to the death of two teenagers here in 2012.

Ciara Pugsley, 15, from Co Leitrim, and Erin Gallagher, 13, from Co Donegal, took their lives after being subjected to anonymous bullying on Ask.fm.

It emerged this week the website is moving its headquarters here from Latvia.

Yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan tweeted: “Ask.fm relocating to Dublin is a matter of concern. I intend raising the matter with my Government colleagues.”

A spokeswoman for the minister explained that Mr Flanagan was a father of teenage girls and a former minister for children. He had been closely following the issues with Ask.fm.

“He is concerned they would have the appropriate safety processes in place and he spoke to the current children’s minister about it and pointed out that those processes should be there.”

In the wake of the death of a British schoolgirl in 2013, Ask.fm initiated a safety audit after which it announced it would introduce a “bullying/harassment” button, as well as investigate reports of abusive behaviour within 24 hours and hire more moderators and a safety officer.

Over the summer, the website was acquired by Ask.com and earlier this week, after the move of the headquarters from Latvia to Dublin was confirmed, its chief executive Doug Leeds said it had updated its policies and terms of service. A “law enforcement affairs officer” will also be based in Ireland.

Yesterday, Ciara Pugsley’s father Jonathan said two years after his daughter’s death, he was still suffering.

“It does not get easier,” he told the Ray D’Arcy Show on Today FM. “Things will never be right, quite frankly. It’s not the natural way of things. I would have preferred that she stood over my grave than me stand over hers.” He said Ask.fm was not the only site that had a business policy where people were allowed to post anonymous comments.

“Throughout the time I have been talking about it, the main issue I have had is that policy,” he said. “

It does tend to breed vile comments.”

Mr Pugsley was also critical of how the Government has reacted to the problem.

“When the initial revelations came out, there was obviously a lot of interest and we spoke to a few ministers and a few government officials. Over the last year and a half, I would say it has fairly died down and I have to say I am very disappointed with the reaction of the Government because they say our laws are good enough, when clearly and obviously they are just not good enough to cover these new situations.

“They were written years ago, they don’t even use modern terminology and they tend to be very reactive, so by that time the damage is done.”

Mr Pugsley said Ask.fm’s coming to Ireland was not just a kick in the teeth for his family but for the people of Ireland because the management team at the time had said the English and Irish were more prone to bullying than other nations.

“That is absolutely not true. It just shows yet again that money is more important than people. That has been shown throughout the history of Ask.fm ever since I got involved. I am very prepared to speak to the new owner and let’s see how we can take it from there.”


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