Brighton writer, blogger and mum Maddie Sinclair is campaign manager for the ‘Love for Izzy Dix’ campaign, which raises awareness of bullying, low self-esteem and teen suicide by promoting love, kindness, compassion, empathy and respect.
Back in this column in May, I wrote about the work we’ve been doing as part of the ‘Love for Izzy Dix’ anti-bullying campaign – a cause set up a year ago in the wake of the news that a close family friend of ours, 14-year-old Izzy Dix, had taken her own life after a prolonged period of being bullied: at school, in the community and online.
In mid-September, it was a year since we lost Izzy. It was a difficult day for all who knew and loved her, but unbearably traumatic for her mum, Gabbi, who has lost an only child, a precious daughter, a best friend. She’s been so courageous, raising awareness of bullying and cyberbullying as she struggles to deal with her own heartwrenching grief, trying to rebuild her world piece by piece like a broken stained-glass window, only to find that so many of the pieces are missing, and those she can find keep cutting her as she tries to put them back together.
But amongst all this hardship, we had some good news.
Shortly after Izzy’s death, we launched a petition against a Latvian social media site called Ask.fm, which encourages anonymous comments, and has been linked to the deaths of 16 teenagers around the world after they were bullied on there. Over the months, our petition collected 144,851 signatures and we were in the process of presenting it to the House of Commons to be debated.
But last month we heard the surprising news that Ask.fm had new owners.
Our petition, as well as other negative news stories that began to circulate around the globe, caused so much bad press for Ask.fm that the totally unrelated US search engine, Ask.com (Ask Jeeves in the UK), started to receive bad publicity too by people who were confusing the two companies. So they did something about it – they bought the company.
They’re now 100% committed to making it a safer place and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
Soon after the buyout announcement, I received a phone call from the US-based CEO of Ask.com, Doug Leeds, because he personally wanted to let us know all the things they’re doing to tackle bullying on Ask.fm. Initiatives like investing millions in moderation; committing to responding to bullying allegations in 24 hours; educating users and parents about their platform; and making controls for users more prominent, so turning off anonymous comments, deleting, reporting and blocking are now much easier to do.
Izzy always said she wanted to change the world. Gabbi and I set up the ‘Love for Izzy Dix’ campaign as a way of making this happen on her behalf – and it looks like she’s finally doing it. You can follow the campaign on Facebook at www.facebook .com/IzzyDixAntiBullyingMemorialPage and on Twitter at @IzzyDixMemorial. Follow Maddie on Twitter at: @ThinkBeyondPink and @maddiesinclair