|Type of business||Social networking|
Type of site
|Social Q&A website|
|Available in||49 languages|
|Traded as||Ask.fm Europe Limited|
|Founded||16 June 2010|
|Registration||Required to ask questions and post responses|
|Launched||16 June 2010|
Ask.fm (also commonly known as ASKfm) is a global social networking site where users create profiles and can send each other questions. It was once a form of anonymous social media that encouraged questions to be submitted anonymously. The site was founded in 2010 in Riga, Latvia. Its headquarters was moved to Dublin, Ireland following its 2014 acquisition by IAC (who also own Ask.com). In 2016 IAC sold it to Noosphere Ventures, a California-based asset management firm.
2010–2014: Launching and cyberbullying controversies
The site was founded in Latvia by brothers Ilja and Mark Terebin, and launched on 16 June 2010, as a rival to Formspring. By 2013, ASKfm reached 65 million registered users and continued its growth by approx. 300,000 new users per-day.
In mid-2013, before Ask.com bought Ask.fm, the site was the subject of several media articles regarding cyberbullying that have been linked to suicides. Commenting on the situation, Ilja Terebin stated that the company had a reporting feature and employed a number of moderators to fight cyberbullying.
On 6 August 2013 it was reported that Hannah Smith, a 14-year-old girl from Leicestershire, England, had killed herself, and that her father blamed her death on cyberbullying responses she had received on the site. He called for tighter controls against social networking sites like Ask.fm, saying that he had seen the abuse his daughter had received and it was wrong that it was anonymous. The Smith family calls were echoed by the parents of Goosnargh, Lancashire teenager Joshua Unsworth, who was reported to have been "cyberbullied" on the site prior to his suicide.
Following the suicide of Smith, British Prime Minister David Cameron called for a boycott of websites that do not take responsibility for dealing with cyberbullying on their sites. Several advertisers responded by severing links with the site, including (amongst others) Save the Children, eBay, BT and Vodafone had already stopped advertising on the site.
The company responded by stating it was 'happy to help police'. ASKfm also conducted an internal audit and made changes to its safety policies accordingly. Above all, they enhanced reporting and blocking functionalities, and they hired more moderation staff to review reports within 24 hours upon receiving them. ASKfm also encouraged more users to have registered accounts, so the company could capture IP data for safety purposes.
The further investigation showed there was no sufficient evidence to suggest that using the ASKfm site has led to the death of the young girl. In fact, Det Sgt Wayne Simmons revealed that Hannah had been sending ‘bullying and aggressive messaging’ to herself. Later Hanna’s Smith case of self-bullying became also a subject of academic research.
2014–2016: Purchased by IAC and terrorist content concerns
In August 2014, the site was purchased by IAC, who also owns Ask.com, with IAC announcing its intention to refocus on safety. Since the acquisition, changes toward this goal have include parting ways with Ask.fm founders, Tarosh, whom Ask.com CEO Doug Leeds described as having a "laissez-faire" approach to safety and working with the New York Attorney General and the Maryland Attorney General to create a plan for site. Ask.fm has since reconsidered its user safety policies and launched a Safety Advisory Board consisting of experts in digital safety, as well as a Safety Center.
Since IAC has acquired Ask.fm, it has relocated its headquarters to Dublin, Ireland. Ask.fm officials met with the Department of Children to assure the proper steps are being taken to "significantly improve" protections on the website.
In 2014, BBC News documented Ask.fm being used by ISIS for recruiting and advice. An Ask.fm spokesperson said the company did not allow calls to violence or criminal activity. The ISIS accounts remained active a week after having been reported.
The company subsequently joined the European Commission’s Internet Forum in 2015 to curb the spread of terrorist content and is implementing the joint industry hash database initiative to detect illegal terrorist content and also joined the UN Tech Against Terror initiative.
2016–present: Purchased by Noosphere and new cryptocurrency plans
In 2017, ASKfm also partnered with Koko, a company that provide AI powered service in detecting damaging content. The partnership aims to address the phenomenon of “self-bullying” by detecting such cases and providing personalized distress-support.
In 2018, ASKfm teamed up with the UK charity The Diana Award and Dr Linda Papadopoulos for a research on how the online life affects the way young people build their identity. The findings allowed them to create a pack of educative materials of use to young people, parents and teachers.
In 2018, ASKfm introduced ASKfm 2.0, their ICO plans for launching a similar blockchain-based social network with its own internal cryptocurrency named as ASK Token, while rewarding users for their contents. During their promotion, an incident happened on Mount Everest that caused a man to be dead.
Ask.fm has been cited as an example of the problems anonymous social media can cause through its combination of offline contacts who know each other well, and the availability of online anonymity. Since 2014, the company has been constantly improving its service to prevent bullying, so it can be also considered as an example of how modern cyber safety technologies are implemented to tackle the issue.
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