ask.fm advertisers Laura Ashley, Vodafone and Save the Children first to withdraw spend from site following teenage bullying suicide
Social networking site ask.fm is facing an advertising boycott with brands such as Vodafone, Save the Children and Laura Ashley withdrawing their spend in the wake of the suicide of teenager Hannah Smith.
Smith’s death has been connected to her use of the site, after receiving anonymous messages from its users telling her to drink bleach and criticising her looks. Her father has since called for manslaughter charges to be brought against the site’s owners.
As a result of the controversy, several of its advertisers have now stated that they will not continue to do so, The Telegraph has reported, as ask.fm is criticised for its lack of response over the situation.
The site has said that it will help police with their investigation into Smith’s death, and released a statement apologising to the family.
In reaction, Peter Wanless, CEO of NSPCC, said “The cruel nature of cyberbullying allows perpetrators to remain anonymous and hide behind their screens. This is something that must be tackled before it gets out of hand. We must ensure young people have the confidence to speak out against this abuse, so that they don’t feel isolated and without anywhere to turn.”
Asked for reaction to events, Siobhan Freegard, founder of the UK's largest parenting site Netmums.com, said: "It is not enough to say parents and teachers need to monitor their children's internet use, they do but there will always be a disconnect and parents will always be one step behind.
"We need action from pressure groups, experts and the owners of these websites but ultimately there needs to be action taken by the government."
Meanwhile, Andrew Goode, chief operating officer at content verification tool Project Sunblock, said that the move by advertisers to withdraw their spend from ask.fm highlighted the issue that brands have in terms of transparency of where their online adverts appear.
“This has the potential to cause serious reputational and financial damage,” he added. “In an increasingly social media world, companies need more reassurance about where their collateral is appearing on the internet. We’ve already experienced a number of our clients actively remove their content from ask.fm.”
Ask.fm has around 60 million users, half of which are understood to be under the age of 18.
Should this subject affect yourself or any other young person you know, then ChildLine can be contacted on 0800 1111.