Anonymous question and answer website ask.fm has been linked to the suicide of at least seven teenagers in the last seven months, including those of 16 year old Jessica Laney, Ciara Pugsley (15), Lara Burns (12), sisters Erin & Shannon Gallagher (13 & 16), Joshua Unsworth (15) and 16 year old Anthony Stubbs.
Charles Conway is an Internet safety trainer with Wrexham based Clear as Crystal Training, working with parents and children to both prevent cyberbullying and to support victims. Hes asking parents to support a campaign to boycott internet giant Amazon, the Company which, according to Conway, has the power to shut down the website at the flick of a switch.
Ive been working with a number of parents recently who have told me horrendous stories about their childrens experiences of ask.fm said Conway.
I spoke only last week with the mother of a 12 year old girl who was driven almost to the point of taking her own life because of the vicious bullying she suffered on ask.fm. Why? Because she refused to have sex with her boyfriend. Had her parents not intervened, this girl could easily have been the subject of another tragic headline. Things have gone far enough and its time for parents to come together and take action.
What does this have to do with Amazon?
The ask.fm website is hosted by the Amazon Web Service, a division of e-commerce giant Amazon.com. Amazon Web Service, according to its own acceptable use policy, has the right to shut down the website in the event that it is used for purposes which are illegal, harmful or offensive.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has so far failed to respond to Charles emails showing details of over 59,000 examples of physically and sexually violent threats, incitement to self harm and suicide, racially abusive and homophobic questions posted on the website, but a spokesperson told him
" We recommend (and suspect it would be most productive) for you to reach out directly to Ask.fm to discuss their service."
Kids are bullying themselves says Ask CEO
In an interview with technology blog Arctic Startup on Monday, ask.fm CEO Ilja Terebin said that 90% of bullying comments are posted by the alleged victims themselves because:
"Kids lack attention, mainly because parents are doing other things such as watching TV, drinking beer and reading the tabloids."
Shut the site down
Clearly, threats to kill, incitement to suicide and self harm, threats of rape and physical violence and racist/homophobic slurs breach Amazon's acceptable use policy, and Amazon could shut down the site at the flick of a switch if it so chose. Charles told us. "The founders of ask.fm have already made it clear that they don't believe themselves responsible for the content on their website, so I'm turning to the Companies who provide their infrastructure in an attempt to shut the site down.
Ive asked nicely
I've asked the CEO of Amazon nicely, and given him all of the evidence he needs to justify shutting down the site, and he's done nothing, so I'm now asking concerned parents to lend their support to this campaign to boycott all Amazon services until he does. At least seven young lives have been cut short, due in part to the abuse suffered at the hands of ask.fm users. Even one was too many, and this site must be shut down."
Amazon has shut down sites before
It wouldnt be the first time Amazon has shut down a website hosted on its servers. In 2010, responding to a request from US Senator Joseph Lieberman, the online behemoth withdrew hosting from whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.
My message to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is this, said Conway. If you can take down WikiLeaks, you can take down ask.fm. Dont do it for the sake of Amazons reputation, dont do it because some parents are giving you a hard time, do it for the memory of the seven children who have taken their own lives, and to prevent it happening again.