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Kenny wants Ask.FM to work with Government on internet child protection standards

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny is interviewed by group political editor Fionnan Sheahan at the Independent.ie studio at Web Summit. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is interviewed by group political editor Fionnan Sheahan at the Independent.ie studio at Web Summit. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is interviewed by group political editor Fionnan Sheahan at the Independent.ie studio at Web Summit. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny says he wants controversial website, Ask.FM to work with the Government on child protection standards when it relocates to Ireland.

However, Mr Kenny did not express objections to the company moving to Ireland.

The father of a teenage girl who took her own life after being bullied on the website has called on the Government to prevent the company behind it moving to Ireland.

And a Cabinet minister has voiced concern over its plans to move its headquarters to Dublin.

In an interview with Independent.ie at the Web Summit, Mr Kenny said there have been “real concerns and anxiety” about Ask.FM.

“There have been real concerns and anxiety expressed about Ask.FM for a number of reasons. I would say that the Department of Children, which is a major department of goverment here, is available for Ask.FM an any time in order to set out the conditions and the criteria that Ireland likes to see in respect of potential cyberbullying of any children.

“So I would say that Ask.FM should engage directly with our Department of Children, who have quite a deal of experience put together now in respect of the protection of children, which is so important for families, for society everywhere,” he said.

Mr Kenny said he believed the child protection regime in Ireland could force internet companies to adopt higher standards.

“Yes I do because as you know the Government appointed the first Minister for Children, we had a referendum in our Constitution to enshrine children’s rights in there.

“We have put together a great deal of information and knowledge about how children can be protected and in particular in respect of cyber-bullying and the Department of Children and the Minister for Children we’d be very anxious to engage with Ask.FM,” he said.

Ask.fm, which allows users to post comments anonymously online, is relocating its business from Latvia to Dublin.

Ciara Pugsley (15) was found dead near her home in Dromahair, Co Leitrim, in September 2012. Erin Gallagher (13) took her own life five weeks later in Ballybofey, Co Donegal.

Both girls had been targeted by bullies on the site. Erin's sister Shannon took her life two months later.

Ciara's father Jonathan said he was left "shocked and angry" when he learned that Ask.fm was being allowed to relocate its headquarters to Ireland.

He urged the Government to stop the move. "I can't believe that Ireland as a nation is prepared to accept the presence of these sort of companies here," he told the Irish Independent.

"This is a website which allows people to write whatever they want about whoever they wish online and protect the identity of those posting vile and horrible comments.

"You have to ask the question: Is this jobs at any cost? Where is Ireland's moral barometer?"

Ask.fm was bought by UK company Ask.com in August. However, Ask.com confirmed to the Irish Independent the feature will remain in place.

Mr Pugsley said he would continue to campaign to ban websites which allow anonymous posting.

"I still have good days and bad days," said Mr Pugsley, who has been fundraising on behalf of the bereavement charity Console.

"Ciara died because people were allowed to post horrible comments online and hide behind their computers. I can't believe they are being allowed to set up here. It's ethically and morally reprehensible."

In a statement the new owners of the company said didn't know yet how many jobs would be created in Dublin

Asked about its anti-bullying policies, CEO Doug Leeds said: "There will be no changes to the fundamental aspects of the service such as charging for it or removing the ability to ask questions anonymously."

Under new rules being introduced next month users will be able to block others.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan took to Twitter today to express his unease over reports that the site’s owners want to relocate from their current base in Latvia.

The Fine Gael TD, who served for a short time as Children’s Minister, said he intends to raise the matter with his colleagues at today’s cabinet meeting.

“Ask.fm relocating to Dublin is a matter of concern. I intend raising the matter with my Government colleagues,” Mr Flanagan tweeted.

The father of Ciara Pugsley, the teenager who took her own life after being bullied via the website, has also expressed deep concern.

Online Editors