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New Ask.fm owners considered “shutting it down”

New owners of controversial social network Ask.fm admit weighing up their options

Social Networking

The acquisition of controversial social network Ask.fm, which has been linked to a number of teen suicides in addition to other toxic behaviour, raised a few eyebrows last summer, and buyer Ask.com has spoken about the thought-process behind keeping the site amid its run of bad publicity.

Ask.com CEO Doug Leeds spoke to Newsbeat about the current Ask.fm situation, admitting: "We did look at shutting it down and we thought about it significantly as an option.

"We came to the conclusion that there's a good business here as long as you make the service safer."

The site has already made strides to stamp out abusive and damaging behaviour that once ran riot, introducing a new safety centre designed to reach teens, parents, teachers and law enforcement with advice on what to do about the negative online contingent.

A Safety Advisory Board consisting of online safety experts, including secretary of the British Childrens' Charities Coalition on Internet Safety, has also been set up.

"Our motto since we bought the company has been anonymity with responsibility," Leeds continued. "We think there are a lot of benefits and obviously users agree to anonymity. You can ask questions that you wouldn't feel comfortable asking."

The site famously reaches a younger demographic than other social media platforms which, coupled with the ability to remain anonymous when interacting with others, created an environment in which rules were difficult to enforce.

"That's where we draw the line; when anonymity is being used as a method to cause harm then we can take action and it isn't appropriate for our service," Leeds added.

Under the new ownership, the site will employ additional filters and more manpower in order to moderate activity, now looking at 40 per cent more content than before. Inappropriate content will usually be responded to within 15 minutes, he said.

"There was a naivety there, but that's all history now. It's a big investment in clever technology and people, that's what's going to make the difference."

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