Dangerous Combination of Anonymity and the Internet is a simple site which allows users to ask and answer questions. But there is one catch- and that’s what makes it all the more popular- the questions can be asked anonymously. So whether kids want to know who their real friends are, or if their crush is single, or whether they are pretty, they ask these questions, hoping for positive answers. But most often, the answers are derogatory, hurtful or crude.

The Internet is the classic example of being tough and mean in front of the screen, but minding your words in public. Anonymity and the Internet do not go hand-in-hand and yet people tend to write something they wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

The Latvia-based site, has recently told its followers on Twitter that it plans to never release the information of anyone who posts to the site. This works as a safety net to cyber-bullies; one can post anything they want, from downright nasty questions to telling people to kill themselves, and the victim will never be able to know the identity of the person.

It seems, most of the victims actually know their tormentors – the site has links to Facebook and Twitter, and they invite their friends to come on and ask them questions, further widening the amount of people who can see their posts.  Emboldened in front of the computer screen, total anonymity promised, cyber-bullies can post whatever they like without the slightest fear of repercussions., unlike other social media sites, had a complete lack of any tracking or parental control processes.  ‘Flaming’ or the act of sending or posting offensive messages online is perhaps more common than civility on this site. In a recent survey, which sampled 10,008 young people, aged between 13 – 22 years old (of which 67% were from the UK, 17% from the USA, 12% from Australia and 4% from other countries), it has been found that 7 out of 10 users have been the victims of cyber-bullying, and joins social media giants like Facebook and Twitter as the most common sites the bullies target.

Ask. fm requires users to be at least 13, but younger kids lie about their age to use it. A video option is also available, where the user answers the question using a web-cam, providing users with an opportunity to tag other users by putting @ symbol followed by the username.

A function to disable anonymous questions has been introduced, but all posts are by default public. There are privacy controls, but even non-users can view the answers and the questions. There seems to be no way around this unsafe feature; once you post something, it will be there for everyone to see.  There does seem to be some things that this site is doing right. Users and even non-users can report a post if they find it to be offensive.  When you move your mouse over any post on someone else’s profile, you will see an option to like the post and also a drop down arrow which allows you to report the post for one of four reasons.

And it also possible to block users-by scrolling to the bottom of their profile page and clicking on block. Users can also remove any questions from their own profile by clicking on the cross in the top right hand corner of every question and answer. For more information on how to be safe on the site click this.

One unfortunate feature related to cyber bullying is the ability of users of the site to “hack” the site to ascertain the identities of anonymous users of the site to continue the “conversation.” According to Google, there are many ways to achieve this. At one point, there was also an Android app to help get around the anonymity.

There have been cases, in which the cyber-bullying on took such a drastic turn, that it ended up driving nine young people to suicide. One of them, Hannah Smith, was bullied even after her suicide, with mean comments written underneath her photos on social media. The family of Anthony Stubb, another teen who hanged himself after cease-less cyber-bullying on the site, have called for the website to shut down.

Prominent report buttons were added after the site came under intense pressure from concerned parents after Hannah’s suicide. More staff was also hired to deal with abusive messages and a separate website created with information for parents, termed as a partial victory by Hannah’s grieving father.


Written by Ravneet Sandhu, volunteer Beyond Bullies




Jul 2 2014 in Home Page, Uncategorized admin Comments Off on Dangerous Combination of Anonymity and the Internet

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