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For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
Raquel Guillory, 410-576-6357
rguillory@oag.state.md.us

Attorney General Gansler Announces Agreement to End "Pay-to-Police" Policy by Topix.com

BALTIMORE, MD ( August 9, 2010) -Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today announced an agreement with Internet message board host Topix.com to improve consumer protections and eliminate the $19.99 fee to expedite review of abusive or inappropriate posts.

“I am pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with the company to put a stop to the ‘pay-to-police’ policy to expedite removal of abusive posts,” said Attorney General Gansler. “My office will continue to work with the company to ensure that our citizens, particularly our kids, are not being harmed by harassing and abusive posts.”

As part of the settlement, all reports of abuse on Topix will be reviewed free of charge. The company will also seek to review and remove inappropriate posts within three working days rather than its previous policy of seven to 14 days. Additionally, Topix has removed the “flagging” option for reporting abusive posts. The option was ineffective and confusing for consumers as it required multiple users to “flag” a post before it was reviewed. As a result, many inappropriate posts consumers thought they had reported were never reviewed.

Although the free exchange of ideas serves an important function in our democracy, personal libelous attacks do not. The site has also agreed to make technical and human resources improvements in order to better review and block inappropriate posts.

Topix has also agreed to:

  • Continue cooperating with law enforcement agencies in combating unlawful activity on its website;
  • Consult on an as-needed basis with the attorneys general to discuss issues of concern, including responsiveness to abuse reports and other consumer complaints; and,
  • Continue to explore new technology and processes for preventing misuse of its site.

The attorneys general from 33 other states and US territories also joined the initiative to address consumer protection concerns with Topix: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

Topix.com, of Palo Alto, CA describes itself as a “top ten online newspaper destination” which encourages readers to post comments about news items or other matters of community interest.

   

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