Ask.fm unveils new safety features to combat cyberbullying

Question and answer site Ask.fm has introduced a series of changes aimed at boosting safety following the death of Hannah Smith, who is thought to have killed herself after being bullied on the site.

The company said it will be introducing a new bullying/harassment category for reporting abuse and promised to view and investigate all reports within 24 hours.

To help facilitate this, the Latvia-based site said it will be hiring more staff, including a safety officer to moderate comments and deal with complaints of abuse.

Following the controversy linking the site to the death of 14-year-old Hannah Smith, who was found hanged in her home in Leicestershire on 2 August, founders Mark and Ilja Terebin said the site already has a team of human moderators "that work around the clock – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days per year".

As part of the updates, the site will be making the button to opt out of receiving anonymous questions more highly visible. It will also be limiting the number of features unregistered users are able to access, in order to make dealing with problem users easier.

Registered users will now be required to enter an email address to sign-up. "In this way, using an email verification upon sign-up, Ask.fm can capture the email and IP addresses of users and be better equipped to deal with reports," the company said in a statement.

"The number of users on Ask.fm has increased dramatically since our launch in 2010. As the site grows we recognise that it must also mature and adapt not only to stay relevant and attractive to our users, but to promote a safe and respectful environment," it added.

"It is our hope that, as part of our continuing commitment to improve our site and its safety features, these changes will help achieve this."

The site updates will be introduced by October and the new staff in place by January.