Attorney General Gansler Urges Major Advertisers to
Pull Ads from Internet Site Ask.fm
Companies should cease support of website that enables anonymous attacks and poses other risks to children
Baltimore, MD ( May 8, 2013) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is urging several major advertisers to cease advertising on Ask.fm, an ad-supported website that has become a forum for anonymous attacks on children and teens. It has also been linked to multiple teen suicides. The letter sent to advertisers says the Latvia-based website not only allows "anonymous publication of malicious personal attacks on teenagers and children as young as 8 years old," but also appears to collect personal information about children in ways that violate the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
"This website is putting children at risk and we think it's important to let major corporate advertisers know how their marketing dollars are spent and what those dollars support," said Attorney General Gansler. "A growing number of children under 13 use Ask.fm because it makes no meaningful effort to limit underage access, and these kids are being exposed to malicious anonymous postings, including racial slurs, sexual references, drug use and personal assaults."
In addition to pointing out Ask.fm's questionable compliance with COPPA, Attorney General Gansler is asking corporate advertisers to re-examine their marketing policies in light of the growing threats posed to children by cyberbullying, identity theft, Internet sexual predators, and other safety and privacy risks that have become alarmingly common in the digital world.
In the letter, Attorney General Gansler writes:
Because no effort is made to screen out children under age 13 or offer parental controls, Ask.fm has become a hot spot for anonymous personal attacks on children and teens. The website is populated with expletives, drug and sexual references, and racial and ethnic epithets, making it a virtual center for misunderstanding and hate. The extensive personal information published on this site, including street addresses, also makes it a likely tool for child predators.
To view the entire letter from Attorney General Gansler to Ask.fm advertisers, visit: http://www.oag.state.md.us/press/askfm.pdf