9 Aug 2013

Police call for cyber site to be shut down

8:53 pm on 9 August 2013

Police want a popular social media site shut down amid concerns over its cyber bullying links in New Zealand.

Several teenage deaths overseas may be linked to the ask.fm site, where users can send abusive and sexually explicit messages anonymously.

In New Zealand, police have referred the recent death of a teenager who used the site to the coroner.

The head of the child exploitation unit, Detective Senior Sergeant John Michael, says ask.fm is failing its corporate responsibility but because it is based in Latvia, there is little the police here can do.

Mr Michael urged parents to talk to their children about the site's risks.

"Parents can't sit there and monitor their children's internet usage 24/7. The best thing parents can do is try and have that open communication with their teenagers and young children and just highlight the risks."

He was so concerned about the site that he contacted it himself - and was unimpressed with its response that people can just disable the "anonymous" function.

"The reality is that teenagers won't do that because that's part of the fun of using the website," he said.

"It serves no positive purpose and while I respect freedom of speech, where I see it being linked to people harming themselves, I just can't seen any reason why we should support a website like that."