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Ask.fm- Dangerous Combination of Anonymity and the Internet

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

 

Ask.fm 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, Ask.fm 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 Ask.fm 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.

Ask.fm, 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 Ask.fm 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 Ask.fm 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 Ask.fm 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

 

 

 

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Cyber-bullying is a rapidly growing issue. Learn how to protect yourself Now

May 10 2014in Uncategorized, Whats New admin Comments Off on Cyber-bullying is a rapidly growing issue. Learn how to protect yourself Now

​Protect Yourself on the Internet from Cyberbullying

Stand outside and count as three teenagers pass by; one, two and three.  Now, do it again.  In less than two minutes, you will have counted at least two people who have been cyberbullied.  The sad part, is half of them don’t tell their parents or other adults, even when the bullying hurts or becomes seriously harmful.

 Cyber-bullying is a rapidly growing issue and it shows no signs of slowing down. With the rise of social media sites and digital technology in the hands of youth, knowing how to protect oneself from cyberbullying has never been as important as it is now.

 Twitter  

 On nearly every trending post in the Twitter-sphere, you can find profanity and obscene remarks. Users can protect themselves by reporting and filling out an abuse form or an in-tweet report button on mobile web (which, however, is only available in the UK).

 However, this doesn’t always stop the bully. Should their account be reported, the perpetrator can make a fake one and continue to torment you and others.

 To see results immediately, lock your account so that it is private and visible only to your followers. If there is a person cyberbulling you, keep all records of your interactions and show a copy to your parents, your teacher, or another trusted adult. You can also take a screenshot by pressing PrtScn on the top of your keyboard followed by pasting it into a Word document or Notepad.  If you would like more steps on how to protect yourself, Click.

 Facebook

 On Facebook, cyber-bullying takes the form of being tagged in lewd or humiliating photos, getting unwanted posts on your wall, or being mobbed with inappropriate, hurtful, and unwanted messages.  Even a hate-page can be created against you, which after reported, may or may not be taken down by Facebook.

 To keep yourself safe, only “friend” people you know, block those who persistently make you uncomfortable and report any cyberbullying you see posted, whether it’s someone you know or not. Being socially responsible means looking out for all people online.  Additionally, keep the privacy settings on your time-line stringent, change the tagging feature available to only friends and use passwords that aren’t common. And remember: do not give out personal details, including your telephone number, address, and school name on social media sites.

 You can also work with someone you trust when using Facebook’s Social Reporting tool by sending a copy of the abusive content to them, which will also generate a report on Facebook.

Instagram

 In this world of captured moments, malicious or embarrassing photos can be posted for followers to see, or an insulting remark or a hash-tag may be written underneath your photo.  In fact, bullies can use the “Add People” feature and tag an image with your name without even having to follow you. If the bully is not following you, you will NOT be notified about the photo nor will you be able to see the tag or comments.  Even private text messages can be copied through screenshots and put up on Instagram.

To protect yourself, remove geo-tagging from all images, keep your account private, share confidential details with only whom you trust implicitly and choose all pictures you post with the utmost care.

Tumblr

On Tumblr, it is difficult to create privacy settings that prevent information from being public. As a result, everything you post is public. Therefore, share only the things you don’t mind being copied, pasted and tagged as they may be used against you.  Additionally, people on Tumblr can ask you questions or post nasty comments anonymously, which means you don’t know the identity of the person asking the question.

To stop bullies from attacking you, block any person who makes you uncomfortable and turn off anonymous messages.

Social media sites, if utilized properly can be a boon to all.  You can message a classmate to put up photos of the assignment you missed, talk with a cousin who moved overseas when you were little, or share pictures of your baby nephew.  Just follow the simple rules you were taught as a kid- don’t talk to strangers, don’t do anything that you might regret later on, and be nice to people. By doing this, you’ll avoid most of the problems.  

Written by Ravneet Sandhu

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