Teen suicides put Latvia’s Ask.fm under scrutiny

Aug 14, 2013
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The parents of the Latvian founders of a social media platform involved in a British suicide row are defending their sons, the Daily Mail writes. Latvian entrepreneurs and founders of Ask.fm, Ilja Terebin, 34, and Mark Terebin, 29, have come under fire from relatives of teens who have committed suicide after being cyber-bullied. The most recent case is that of Hannah Smith, a 14-year-old British girl who recently ended her life. She had been told to “drink bleach” and “go die” by anonymous users of the platform, according to the Techcrunch website. The tragedy followed the suicides of four other teenage girls in English-speaking countries who allegedly received abusive and hateful messages from Ask.fm users.

The Daily Mail writes that parents of the victims are urging advertisers to boycott the website and have even appealed to Prime Minister David Cameron for assistance. The mother of Ask.fm’s founders, Ludmilla Terebin, responded, saying, “I think we’d better look instead at the parents of these teenagers and at the way they brought them up.”

She added that she didn’t understand how Ask.fm worked and didn’t use it herself.

Some of the concerns about the site could be addressed by making it harder for users to communicate anonymously, Techcrunch writes, while noting that users can disable anonymous messages and can report abusive posts to moderators.

Smith’s suicide elicited an open letter from the Terebin brothers stating that Ask.fm is collaborating with British police to try and unmask the cyber bullies, and had commissioned an audit of its security features.

But the brothers themselves are now taking flak for expressing their dislike of homosexuals on their personal Ask.fm pages, the Daily Mail reports.


Image courtesy of Flickr user rockinfree

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Transitions Online

Transitions Online (www.tol.org) is an Internet magazine that covers political, social, cultural, and economic issues in the former communist countries of Europe and Central Asia. The magazine has a strong network of local contributors, who provide valuable insight into events in the region’s 29 countries.
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