AGs unhappy with Topix.com

By Keith Loria | May 14, 2010


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal joined 22 other state attorneys general on Friday in an attempt to get a Palo Alto, Calif.-based Internet message board host to change its protection and fee policies.

Blumenthal and his colleagues sent a letter to Topix.com CEO Chris Tolles, expressing their concerns with the host's "Forums and Polls" pages and the Web site's $19.99 fee to expedite review of inappropriate posts.

"We are calling on Topix to abandon its outrageous pay-to-police policy and I urge consumers to join us in telling Topix to stop exploiting pain and abuse on its site," Blumenthal said.

"Forcing victims to pay in exchange for promptly stopping abusive, obscene and harassing Internet posts is exploitive financial bullying. The perpetrators, not victims, should be charged this unconscionable fee for making false or abusive posts."

Blumenthal is calling on Topix.com to end the fees and protect victims - especially children - from online abuse.

"Topix earns a dime off of other people's devastation - making money from mistreatment when victims pay up to protect themselves or their children from online bullying and abuse," Blumenthal said.

Currently, Topix.com, allows readers to post comments about news items or other matters of community interest.

An investigation by the attorney general offices of Connecticut and Kentucky discovered that vulgar language and obscene comments often pop up on the "Forums and Polls" section of Topix, prompting Blumenthal and Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway to contact Topix in February, they claim.

Their request that the Web site respond to their concerns and make changes was met with only minor changes and the company failed to eliminate its pay-to-police fee, they claim.

Both Blumenthal and Conway are running for U.S. Senate.

The attorneys general have asked Topix to eliminate the fee, improve disclosures regarding the feedback system, reduce time for reviewing abusive reports and improve screening of abusive posts.

Blumenthal and Conway are joined by attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, Guam, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Northern Mariana, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington.

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