As you may have read in the NYT today, Ask.com has acquired Ask.fm, the world’s largest social Q&A service with more than 180 million global monthly users.
 
Ask.com has been in the business of finding answering to questions from millions of people over the course of our 18 years, and we are proud that as a result we’ve built our brand to become synonymous with Q&A online. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that as Ask.fm started gaining increasingly significant traction over the past 18 months, we became concerned about the potential to confuse users. Accordingly, we considered, even pursued, several different courses of action; but all the while, becoming much more familiar with the product and its various use cases.
 
What we discovered was an incredibly engaged community, one growing growing rapidly all over the globe. Today, after just a few years in business, Ask.fm has an astounding 180 million users who are asking 20,000 questions per minute and making 670 posts every second – this puts Ask.fm on par with some of the biggest, most well-known social networks in the world.
 
What also was, and has been, abundantly clear, is that the need to materially enhance safety on the Ask.fm site is paramount – critical, really, to unlocking the service’s true potential. And the good news, is we’ve already started the process of making changes on the safety front, on day one of acquisition. Today, I am excited to share the following:

  • Because we believe in a safety-first philosophy, it is important that this philosophy starts at the top of the organization.  Accordingly, we are putting in place a new leadership team that shares this vision, and will have a fresh start to enact policies and procedures that are consistent with it.  As a result, the founding leadership team of Ilya and Mark Terebin are no longer involved in the operations or ownership structure of the company. I want to thank them for building such a vibrant company, for their help and support in completing this deal, and wish them success in their future endeavors.
  • We are thrilled to announce we’ve hired Chief Trust and Safety Officer Catherine Teitelbaum, formerly Director of Safety at Yahoo! to drive global Ask.fm trust and safety initiatives. Catherine’s years overseeing countless safety initiatives at Yahoo!, combined with her years as a trained educator and school teacher, make her the perfect leader to shape the future of Ask.fm’s trust and safety strategy.
  • We have also appointed Annie Mullins OBE, Children’s Digital Worlds and Safety Expert and former Global Head Vodafone Content Standards, to the role of overseeing safety efforts in the UK, in addition to supporting Catherine on a global level. Annie is responsible for producing the Industry Social Media Good Practice standards for protecting children across the industry in the UK and Europe, as well as advising US companies such as Facebook, and Google on these matters. Annie has made recommendations to Ask.fm over the past year; we are now working together more formally to ensure her recommendations get put into practice.
  • We plan on investing millions of dollars into enhancing moderation through a robust, human-powered approach and state-of-the-art automated filtering technology. Our key focus is to dramatically increase the amount of content we can review on the service through these efforts and start making real traction in terms of intervening when we abusive patterns of interaction or cries for help – doing our best to connect users in need of support with the right kind of services.
  • Also announced today is our partnership with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler in the creation of parallel agreements under which Ask.fm will implement a set of best practices focused on increasing the safety of its services. Both the agreements underscore Ask.com’s commitment to partnering with government and law enforcement in an effort to create a safer and more engaging product experience on the Ask.fm site.

Safety issues are real for all global communications platforms and we are committed to solutions, not excuses. We have every intention of dedicating the time, manpower and resources to make Ask.fm a safer, more engaging experience to the benefit of not only its existing users, but millions of new users who have yet to discover it.
 
I am of the firm belief, and our investigation of the usage data confirms, that 180 million people aren’t on Ask.fm to be horrible to each other.  So by making the site safer, we also make it more engaging to use, and allow Ask.fm’s compelling and unique take on social media—the ability to express yourself through the lens of what other people want to know about you—to shine through. With the right technology, guidelines, programs and procedures in place, we can root out bad actors to create a meaningful, compelling and fun place to connect, communicate and learn more about each other.
 
DOUG