General Gansler Urges Topix.Com to Abandon "Expedited
MD ( May 14, 2010) -Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler
today joined 22 other state attorneys general in urging Internet
message board host Topix.com to improve consumer protections
and eliminate its $19.99 fee for “priority review” to
eliminate abusive or inappropriate posts. In a letter to Topix
CEO Chris Tolles, the Attorneys General expressed significant
concerns with the “Forums and Polls” pages and
the website’s $19.99 fee to expedite review of inappropriate
Topix.com describes itself as a “top ten online newspaper
destination,” which encourages readers to post comments
about news items or other matters of community interest. An
initial investigation found that the “Forums and Polls” section
of Topix is routinely used to post abusive, vulgar and obscene
comments, often about children, in blatant violation of Topix’s
terms of service. The forums also appear to operate without
The Attorneys General have asked Topix to:
the $19.99 fee for “expedited review.
Charging consumers $19.99 for an “expedited review” of
abusive posts that violate the Topix Terms of Service is unconscionable.
Topix should abandon the fee and develop alternative measures
to screen and promptly remove abusive posts that violate their
of service, including hiring additional personnel, if necessary,
to timely review abuse reports.
disclosures regarding the feedback system. In addition to ending the $19.99 “expedited review” option
from the “flag abuse” drop down link, Topix should
make its “feedback” and “flagging” options
more clear and concise so that consumers can understand how to
protect themselves and their children.
- Reduce time
for reviewing abuse reports. A one to two week turnaround time for reviewing
abuse reports is inadequate.
Topix should review complaints more promptly, as MySpace and
Facebook have done - within 72 hours for routine abuse reports
and 24 hours
for emergency reports.
screening of abusive posts. Abusive
posts continue to dominate many of the forums. Topix should immediately
its technology to block improper posts and repeat offenders and
explore additional technological measures to block abusive and
hateful posts before they are posted.
“Topix should charge nothing in exchange for enforcing its own terms of
use intended to protect victims, particularly children, from online abuse,” said
Attorney General Gansler. “Targets of false, abusive or obscene posts
are being victimized a second time by being charged a removal fee.”
In addition to Maryland, the following states and jurisdictions
have joined together in writing to Topix: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut,
Guam, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana,
Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, N. Mariana,
Ohio, Rhode Island, South
Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington.