In anti-cyberbullying effort, Topix to drop fee for quick review of posts

As part of a push to curb cyberbullying, Internet message board host agreed to stop charging a $19.99 fee to quickly review potentially abusive or inappropriate posts in an agreement with attorneys general from 35 states and territories announced today.

Consumer Ally
reported on the law enforcement coalition's sending of a letter to the privately-owned Palo Alto, Calif., company in May, asking it to stop charging for fast-track reviews of inappropriate posts. The move was prompted by investigating officials in Connecticut and Kentucky alleging that sections of Topix appeared to lack a moderator and contained inappropriate posts.

In a joint statement with Topix released today, the attorneys general said they are concerned about personal, derogatory posts, particularly those relating to minors. The attorneys general said their offices have received consumer complaints about the impact of inappropriate posts on their families and children.

Topix has not been accused of breaking any laws.

"I appreciate the cooperation of Topix and look forward to continuing to work with the company to ensure that Kentuckians, particularly our kids, are not being harmed by harassing and abusive posts," Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said in a statement announcing the agreement.

The company also agreed to review within three working days all posts reported for abuse. Previously a review could take seven days or more unless the fee was paid, which would cut the wait to one day. Topix also removed an option to "flag" posts that required input from more than one user before a post was designated for review.

In the joint statement Topix agreed to continue to work with authorities and make changes to computer technology and staff to improve the review process. Topix also agreed to change its terms of service to state that the company may remove any post at its discretion.

The states that signed the joint statement include: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia. The territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands also signed on to the letter.