General Gansler Announces Agreement to End "Pay-to-Police" Policy
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
“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
- 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,
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.