Social network Ask.fm was almost shut down following its acquisition in 2014, the BBC reports.
The anonymous question-and-answer service had become involved in controversy after more than half a dozen teen suicides were linked to cyberbullying on the platform. Grieving parents launched campaigns to have the website shuttered.
After months of bad press, it was bought by Ask.com in August 2014. Despite the names, Ask.fm and Ask.com were unconnected prior to the acquisition — the latter is owned by IAC.
In a new interview with BBC Newsbeat, Ask.com CEO Doug Leeds has revealed that IAC considered shuttering Ask.fm completely after its acquisition. He defends the anonymity that characterises the site as letting users “ask questions that you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking,” but recognises that “when anonymity is being used as a method to cause harm then we can take action and it isn’t appropriate for our service.”
In 2014, Ask.com “did look at shutting it down and we thought about it significantly as an option,” he says.
Instead, the company has launched a new “safety center” to help protect its users. There are 143 million registered accounts on the site, with more than 25 billion answers in 49 languages. 50 new questions are asked every day.
The controversial social network has also brought on a safety advisory board comprised of “leading figures in online safety,” and introduced new filters to automatically scan for problematic content. “It’s a big investment in clever technology and people, that’s what’s going to make the difference,” says Leeds.
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