Following the suicide of Lutterworth, England 14-year-old Hannah Smith after online bullying, companies have begun pulling advertising in protest of Ask.fm. Big European businesses, including Specsavers, Vodafone, the Save the Children charity, and Laura Ashley have put space between themselves and the social question-asking website.
Ask.fm is a Latvian-based website that allows people to anonymously post questions on a person’s page. Because the nature of the service involves anonymity, it has developed into a hotbed of online bullying.
Many of the companies have released statements regarding the issue, according to The Guardian. Specsavers told ask.fm to remove all of its advertising from the site due to their “deep concerns over cyberbullying.” In a statement the Save The Children charity said, “We put the welfare of children first and as a result of the tragic case of Hannah Smith we no longer advertise on ask.fm.”
Even British Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the issue. In a statement, Cameron said:
“The people that operate these websites have got to step up to the plate and show some responsibility in the way that they run these websites.
Second point is, just because someone does something online, it doesn’t mean they’re above the law. If you incite someone to do harm, if you incite violence, that is breaking the law, whether that is online or offline.
Also there’s something all of us can do as parents and as users of the internet and that is not to use some of these vile sites. Boycott them, don’t go there, don’t join them – we need to do that as well.
I’m very keen we look at all the action we can take to try and stop future tragedies like this.”
Hannah Smith was being bullied for months before her suicide, with people repeatedly saying things on her Ask.fm page like, “u ugly f*** go die evry1 wud be happy,” or, “fat self harmin’ c***,” according to the Daily Mail.
This isn’t the first teen suicide related to Ask.fm. In the three years of the site’s existence, it has been connected with the suicides of at least four teens. The first were Irish teens Ciara Pugsley, 15, and Erin Gallagher, 13, who both killed themselves in 2012 after being bullied on Ask.fm.
15-year-old Josh Unsworth also hanged himself behind his house in Lancashire, England after being harassed by for months by bullies on the site.
These cases are not contained within Europe. 16-year-old Jessica Laney hanged herself Hudson, Florida after she had been bullied on the site.
Along with these major corporations, an online petition has been circling, calling for the closure of Ask.fm.
If you or someone you know is being bullied and is in danger of committing suicide, please seek help. You’re not alone.
United States: 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-784-2433
Canada: 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-668-6868
UK: 0800 068 41 41 or 08457 90 90 90