Business Technology

Thursday 2 October 2014

Facebook refuses to block app for Ask.fm site linked to Irish girls’ suicide

Published 20/02/2013 | 10:30

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SOCIAL media giant Facebook has decided against disabling an 'app' from a controversial Latvian site linked to the suicide of two teenage Irish girls.

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Facebook said today that its safety development team had reviewed Ask.fm and its use of Facebook protocols.

This followed alleged links between the Latvian site and the deaths last year of Ciara Pugsley (15) in Leitrim and Erin Gallagher (13) in Donegal.

Both teens took their own lives after a vicious campaign of online bullying including abuse on the Ask.fm site.

However, Facebook said that Ask.fm, which has an 'app' link to the Facebook site, was not found to be in breach of the US firm's strict data sharing policies.

On that basis, the Latvian site will continue to be allowed use an 'app' link on Facebook.

Facebook director Simon Milner said that anyone using Ask.fm through Facebook enjoys all the safety benefits offered by the world's largest social media site which boasts one one billion members.

Mr Milner acknowledged that some of the material on the Ask.fm site was "horrendous" but Facebook felt that teens had some protection if they experimented with the site via their Facebook log-in rather than independently of it.

He expressed hope that young people would opt to use safer online environments such as those provided by Facebook.

However, Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald is now in contact with the EU and Latvian Government over growing concerns about Ask.fm and its links to cyber-bullying.

The Latvian site allows for anonymous user and has no reporting procedures for people concerned about online abuse or bullying.

"Safety is at the core of everything we do," Mr Milner said.

"But the reality is that there is bullying in the world. There is bullying in schools. There is bullying online. We will never eradicate it. But we want to do is to provide the tools to help manage and deal with it," he added.

Facebook has vowed to maintain its "zero-tolerance policy" for abusive or hurtful online content.

Mr Milner's comments came as it emerged that up to 50pc of Irish youngsters aged eight and over have a Facebook account.

This is despite the fact that Facebook has a strict user policy which is restricted to those aged 13 years and over.

Mr Milner admitted it was a problem for the social media giant and revealed that EU studies have shown that, in 75pc of cases where underage youngsters had a Facebook account, they had obtained it with the help and knowledge of their parents.

"This is definitely a problem. It is very, very difficult for us to react when in cases parents are helping their children to lie about their age," he said.

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