THE founders of a website linked to the suicide of teenager Hannah Smith said they could reveal the names of anonymous bullies to the police.
Hannah, 14, was found dead by her 16-year-old sister last Friday at their home in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, after being abused on the social networking site Ask.fm.
Mark and Ilja Terebin, bosses of the Latvia-based website, said the site had the technology to identify “almost all users” and that they were committed to supporting the Leicestershire Police investigation.
They said “in extreme circumstances such as those we’ve experienced this week” they could use technology to identify those behind the taunts and “ensure this information is accessible to the appropriate legal authorities”.
Meanwhile, a number of major advertisers have withdrawn from the website, despite protests from the company that it does “not condone bullying of any kind”.
Specsavers, Vodafone, Laura Ashley, EDF Energy and charity Save the Children have all pulled adverts from Ask.fm.
Ask.fm said in a statement that the company wanted to “reassure all users and parents of users that we are committed to ensuring that our site is a safe environment”.
The statement added: “We do not condone bullying of any kind, or any form of unacceptable use of our site.”
Ask.fm described the teenager’s death as a “true tragedy” and said they had been speaking to Leicestershire Police since the incident.
They went on to say that various measures had been implemented over the past few months to continue improving users’ safety, and improved reporting policies had been put in place.
The company said: “The vast majority of our users are very happy teenagers, who use Ask.fm to converse with their peers around the world about the things that interest them.
“Bullying is an age-old problem that we in no way condone – and while its evolution online is disturbing, it certainly is not unique to our site.
“We will continue to work with the appropriate organisations to safeguard against bullying on Ask.fm – and we would welcome the opportunity to align with the rest of industry and society in fighting it on a higher level.”
David Cameron has said he is looking at what action to take “to try and stop future tragedies like this”. The Prime Minister said: “The people that operate these websites have got to step up to the plate and show some responsibility in the way that they run these websites.”
Hannah’s father, David Smith, said those who ran the website should face murder or manslaughter charges and called for more regulation of social networking sites.
Hannah’s sister, Joanne, said she was being subjected to the same hateful taunts as her sister, while a Facebook page dedicated to Hannah had also been targeted.