Attorney General announces Topix.com agreement ending the site’s ‘pay to police’ policy

DENVER — Colorado Attorney General John Suthers announced today that he has joined with the attorneys general of 33 other states and territories in reaching 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.

“This settlement not only resolves the numerous complaints the states received, but it also heads off the possibility of costly and time-consuming litigation to resolve the problems with Topix’s ‘pay-to-police’ policy,” Suthers said. “I appreciate Topix’s efforts to cooperate with us and the other states involved in this settlement.”

As part of the settlement, all reports of abuse on the Palo Alto, California-based Web site will be reviewed free of charge. Topix, which describes itself as a “top ten online newspaper destination” which encourages readers to post comments about news items or other matters of community interest, also will work to review and remove inappropriate posts within three working days rather than its previous policy of seven to 14 days.

Topix also 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.

Pursuant to the settlement, Topix has agreed to:

  • Cooperate with law enforcement agencies in combating unlawful activity on its Web site;
  • 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.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning spearheaded the settlement negotiations. The other 30 states and territories participating in the settlement are Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, 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.

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