Teenage death inquest: Words won’t fix online bullying

THE social networking website Ask.fm appears to have little more than tea and sympathy to offer the families and loved ones of those tragic teenagers who took their own lives after being bullied mercilessly online.

Saying, as a company spokeswoman did, that “our thoughts are with the family” of teenager Erin Gallagher as they prepare for the inquest into her death, rings somewhat hollow in the light of its unwillingness or inability to tackle bullying in an effective way.

Almost exactly two years ago, the company’s new American owners vowed to ensure that the site would no longer be used for bullying. “we’re not going to run a bullying site … If we can’t [fix Ask.fm] we’ll shut it down,” promised Doug Leeds, the CEO of once-dominant search site Ask.com.

The company has since been sold again and its headquarters moved to Ireland amid more promises of tackling the situation. An Ask.fm spokeswoman said Erin’s tragic death was a “timely reminder of the heart-breaking effects bullying can have”.

It is also a timely reminder that the company needs to take its responsibilities seriously and take concrete measures to address bullying on its website.

Weasel words do little to honour the nine teenagers — two of them Irish — who took their own lives after being bullied on the site. Either fix it once and for all, or shut it down.


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