Topix Agrees To Drop "Priority Fees" For Reviewing Inappropriate Content

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The state Attorneys General are busy today. In addition to the Washington AG hitting up Intelius with a fine and injunction for its years-long post transaction marketing scams, the Attorneys General from thirty three states, plus the AG Guam and the AG of the Northern Mariana Islands (wherever that is) have entered into an agreement with Topix to stop their $20 fee for expedited review of inappropriate content.

This is content that individuals or entities find to be offensive or damaging. Topix takes up to seven days, they say, to review flagged content, but payment of the priority fee pushes the complaint to the top of the list. From the joint statement, embedded in full below:

Topix.com is a popular website that, inter alia, allows consumers to post comments, polls and surveys in local forums for the purpose of facilitating discussion about news and other matters of local community interest, and thus provides consumers with an open platform to become more informed regarding local matters. As with all communication tools, it can be misused by consumers. Specifically, a number of posts submitted by consumers contain false, obscene or derogatory information. Some consumers have also complained to the Attorneys General about the impact of inappropriate posts on their personal and family relationships, their reputations in their communities and the impact upon their children. Consumers have also raised concerns about the amount of time it takes Topix to review reports of abusive posts and Topix’s policy of charging $19.99 for a “Priority Review” of such posts.

Topix has agreed to eliminate the priority review product entirely, and “will continue to refine and improve the technical tools and human resources necessary to allow it to review Feedback requests for reported posts.” The company has agreed to aim for a response time of three working days.

I spoke with Topix CEO Chris Tolles by phone today about the agreement. This is a small percentage of total Topix revenue, he says. He added: “Dealing with elected officials from all fifty states and, evidently, other U.S. territories, is part of doing business on the Internet in 2010.”

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