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Ask.fm, Attorney General reach agreement to keep children safer online

Ask.fm, the anonymous question and answer-based social network linked to several teenage suicides, agreed to revamp its safety procedures in a deal brokered between the site and the Maryland Attorney General's Office.

The agreement is similar to one recently struck between Ask.fm and the New York Attorney General's Office.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced the site, owned by Ask.com, will remove repeat abusive posters, monitor user-generated misuse and harassment reports and open new positions for a safety liaison and a law enforcement liaison.

Of Ask.fm's 180 million users worldwide, 42 percent are under the age of 18. Gansler has criticized the social network in the past for not doing enough to protect children online, saying last year "it [made] no meaningful effort to limit underage access."

Ask.fm's users are supposed to be 13 or older before registering.

The new agreement also creates a mechanism for users to report suspected underage usage of the site and registers the site with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to comply with reporting images of sexual exploitation.

Most of the measures must take place within six months or less, under the agreement.

"Making the Internet safer for children is of utmost importance, especially in light of far too many instances of cyberbullying and hurtful content that have ended tragically, here in Maryland and beyond," Gansler said. "The commitment by Ask.fm to quickly review complaints and ban users who repeatedly post offensive or harmful material will create a more hospitable online atmosphere that will diminish cyberbullying."

mbodley@baltsun.com

twitter.com/michael_bodley

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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