IAC, the digital media giant behind Tinder, Vimeo and Ask.com, has bought annonymous social network Ask.fm.
The Ask.fm site is popular amongst teens, and facilitates question and answer exchanges between users without submitting your real identity, but the site is also mired in controversy.
Announcing the deal, IAC promised to create a safer environment for teenagers to communicate freely, after a string of cyberbullying cases and teen suicides have been associated with the Ask.fm site.
Some 40% of its users are younger than 18, according to Ask.com chief executive Doug Leeds. It is particularly popular in the US, Europe, Russia and Brazil.
IAC said that the acquisition will allow Ask.com to tap into Ask.fm’s mobile-focused social platform – a market segment and platform whereAsk.com has been looking to expand.
Ask.fm generates an estimated 20,000 questions per minute with approximately 45 percent of its mobile monthly active users logging in daily. To date, the mobile app has been downloaded more than 40 million times.
“Ask.fm has seen phenomenal usage and engagement because of its compelling take on social expression: describing yourself through the lens of what others want to know about you,” said Leeds.
“Now under Ask.com leadership, the plan for unlocking its true potential will focus on making the experience even more engaging, while significantly increasing the investment in safety.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, in connection with pursuing the acquisition, IAC has changed the leadership of Ask.fm. The founders will have no role in the future operations of the company.
It has also committed to invest in moderation and intervention technologies to protect younger audiences from inappropriate content and get them the help and support they need.
Online safety expert and digital media veteran, Catherine Teitelbaum, has been appointed as Chief Trust and Safety Officer, overseeing all safety-related product, policy, and operational initiatives for the globalAsk.fm user community.
IAC has also appointed Annie Mullins OBE, who has spent more than 15 years advising the UK government and leading NGOs on adolescent safety online, as the UK and Europe safety lead for Ask.fm.
“We want to create a safer environment for teens and young adults to communicate freely,” said Leeds. “We understand that achieving this is complex, and we are delving into the issues that the site has faced in its past, in order to put in place the right solutions for the site’s users for its future.”
IAC, owned by billionaire Barry Diller, has expanded in recent years with acquisitions such as in 2012 of About.com in 2012 for $300 million and last year’s $80 million purchase of ValueClick websites including Investopedia and Coupon Mountain.