Websites ‘must be responsible’

Ben Wallace, MP for Preston North and Wyre
Ben Wallace, MP for Preston North and Wyre

A MP has called for greater regulation of websites and prosecution of their owners if they fail to act to prevent ‘cyberbullying’.

Grieving parents have demanded the social networking site ask.fm be closed down, after it was blamed for the deaths of a number of bullied children.

Ben Wallace wrote to the Home Secretary in April to ask what steps the Government could take to exert control over web forums, which he said exposed young people to “vicious attacks”.

The Preston North MP sent the letter after 15-year-old Joshua Unsworth was found dead behind his family home in Goosnargh.

His parents Gary and Michelle Unsworth, both 47, backed an electronic petition calling for ask.fm to be banned, after the father of a 14-year-old girl who killed herself in Leicestershire last Friday asked the Prime Minister to look at the Latvian-based website.

Dave Smith said his daughter Hannah died after being bullied on ask.fm, which allows users to send messages to each other without their identity being disclosed.

Mr Wallace said: “Government and people need to stop treating the internet as something special, exempt from the normal rules of law or taxation.

“The internet is just a highway. The websites are vehicles on it and if they carry harmful or criminal content they should be made as responsible as the perpetrator.

“It is not good enough for sites such as ask.fm to hide away and pretend it is nothing to do with them.”

The website’s owners owned by Russian brothers Mark and Ilja Terebin, who said they have the technology to identify “almost all users” and are committed to supporting the police.

They said “in extreme circumstances such as those we’ve experienced this week” they could use technology to identify those behind the taunts and “ensure this information is accessible to the appropriate legal authorities”.

Advice on how to keep your children safe online can be found at www.childline.org.uk, www.beatbullying.org and www.thinkuknow.co.uk.