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Dad's bid to ban Ask.fm from Dublin after bullying deaths

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Jonathan Pugsley, father of 15-year-old Ciara who died after online bullying. Picture:Mark Condren

Jonathan Pugsley, father of 15-year-old Ciara who died after online bullying. Picture:Mark Condren

Ciara Pugsley

Ciara Pugsley

Jonathan Pugsley, father of 15-year-old Ciara who died after online bullying. Picture:Mark Condren

THE father of a teenage girl who took her own life after being bullied on a controversial website has called on the Government to prevent it relocating to Ireland.

Ask.fm, which allows users to post comments anonymously online, is relocating its business from Latvia to Dublin.

Ciara Pugsley, who was 15, was found dead near her home in Dromahair, Co Leitrim, in September 2012.

Erin Gallagher (13), took her own life five weeks later in Ballybofey, Co Donegal.

Both girls had been targeted by bullies on the site. Erin's sister Shannon took her life two months later.

Ciara's father Jonathan said he was left "shocked and angry" when he learned that Ask.fm was being allowed to operate here.

He called on the Government to stop the move.

"I can't believe that Ireland as a nation is prepared to accept the presence of these sort of companies here," said Mr Pugsley.

"This is a website which allows people to write whatever they want about whoever they wish online and protect the identity of those posting vile and horrible comments.

"You have to ask the question: 'Is this jobs at any cost?'

"Where is Ireland's moral barometer?"

Ask.fm was bought by UK company Ask.com in August.

Mr Pugsley said he would continue to campaign to ban websites which continue to allow anonymous posting.

Ask.com confirmed that the feature will remain in place.

"I still have good days and bad days," said Mr Pugsley, who has been fundraising on behalf of the bereavement charity Console.

"Ciara died because people were allowed to post horrible comments online and hide behind their computers. I can't believe they are being allowed to set up here. It's ethically and morally reprehensible."

In a statement the new owners of the company said didn't know yet how many jobs would be created in Dublin.

Asked about its anti-bullying policies, Ask.com CEO Doug Leeds said: "There will be no changes to the fundamental aspects of the service such as charging for it or removing the ability to ask questions anonymously.

Control

"Rather, these changes are designed to empower our user base with more information about how to control their experience on Ask.fm.

"When we acquired Ask.fm in August, a key component of our commitment to materially improving the safety of the site was to be more transparent.

"These changes, as well as our current work to appoint a law enforcement affairs officer based in Ireland, will enable us to do just that."

Erin Gallagher had named Ask.fm in her suicide note, according to her mother Lorraine.

hnews@herald.ie


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