Here is the first post in our series on rules. The object is to have a transparent discussion of these rules so that everyone might better understand them and so that we (the moderation team) might better enforce them. Input is welcome.

The Rule:

1. Members must be at least thirteen years of age to join or participate on this site.

The Reason:
Whether or not we think much of this rule is actually rather immaterial as this rule is technically not ours; it is a rule that we must enforce because it was handed to us by Ning as a part of their terms of service:

The Ning Platform is not directed to children younger than 13 and is offered only to users 13 years of age or older. If you are under 13
years old, please do not use the Ning Platform. Any person who provides
their personal information through the Ning Platform represents to us
that they are 13 years of age or older.*


You also agree not to knowingly collect any information from, or develop any Networks that are targeted at children under the age of 13.*


As Ning provides this "platform," we must agree to this rule to use their service. No service, no website. Feel free to comment, but I can't say that it will do any good. Until such a time as Ning sees fit to change this, it is set in stone.

The Action:
If we find someone who is under the age of 13, we will remove them from the site. This is not a situation where a "warning" is possible. They will be, of course, be free to re-join once they reach their 13th birthday.

Stay tuned, Rule #2 is coming soon!

Exciting, isn't it?

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Replies to This Discussion

I can explain my considerations based on my experiences with another website which had a social networking component, and was significantly larger than either A|N or all of Ning for that matter.

This was a concern that came up when I ran the Wikipedia office (first paid employee) 2005-2007. The concern at the time was, quite frankly, that older members used the site as a means of stalking younger members for less than noble purposes. Admittedly, Wikipedia had a long history of debate as to how to cover sensitive issues such as pedophilia, and there was a NAMBLA contingent present, determined to further their agenda. Old guys, little kids, hi, let's be friends ... etc., etc. There was a safety component, and it was not pretty. For example, what do you do with the 13 year old who put down his home address, school, and cell phone number--a case I dealt with personally. (It was more complicated than Ning because it had to be expunged from the histories and not just the page, due to the nature of a wiki format. At the time, it could only be done by a developer.)

At WP this was coupled with the question of what kinds of content contributions a minor could make. Since this is a content-driven site, that same question holds true here.

It was a heated debate, because we had admins who were 12. Eventually, however, WP was forced to accept the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. While that allows for children under 13 to participate with parental consent, such consent was deemed a violation of the principle of user privacy.

Since you have formulated this rule, I am confident that you looked into the ramifications of COPPA and other national and state laws regarding child protection. Perhaps you should share your findings with the community.
By the way, where is the Privacy Policy of the site, posted conspicuously as required by California's Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003, or are you simply making due with the protection that your servers are not in California. Where are the servers?
Third point. Since this is a Ning policy, you can't lower the age. But now you make it clear that you have no intention of raising the age. So what's the point of asking about it? It's what I call the "illusion of participation."
I am not asking, I am clarifying each rule. It is one of the rules. The first one, as a matter of fact. If you'd care to reference my post, you'll see that I say that this particular rule doesn't really need much discussion as it's not one we feel is likely to change. Despite that, you appear agitated. If discussing the rules distresses you, you may want to sit it out.

I do, however, encourage you to read the clarifications when we are done so that you have a firm understanding of the policy of the site.
I have not written a term paper on it, if that's what you're asking.
That's unfortunate, because there are issues of liability and criminal negligence involved. See for instance.

You may want to start with this:
I'm glad to see you are such a staunch proponent of rule #1.
I'm saddened to see that you don't understand the seriousness of the law or of internet privacy in general.

What do I care? If there is a problem--and if your focus is size, problems will inevitably arise--Richard and you will be the first people sued. Oh, and the Board members of this site, if there is such a thing. Rather than glib responses, it would be beneficial for you and everyone else to gain a better understanding of some of the legal issues you potentially face. I realize that you didn't sign up for all of that when you were asked to be Community Manager, but that doesn't absolve you from the responsibility inherent in the position. Piss off the wrong people (Scientologists, for instance) and they will come at you with a sledgehammer.
I see. Upon what basis can you publicly declare that I don't understand the law in regard to internet privacy?
Both your glib responses and your unwillingness to address any of the points I have raised.
Which points would those be? That we should not allow children under the age of 13 to join the site? You're feigned anticipation that I would have something enlightening to say about the "ramifications of COPPA." The ramifications are that it's illegal to allow children under the age of 13 on to the site. We don't. It is also illegal to kill Bison, we don't do that either. I have also not written a term paper about the ramifications of the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

We are a customer of Ning. It is they who have created the back-end for this site and host it. They make sure we have the tools we need to comply with the law and we must make a good-faith effort to keep children under the age of 13 from submitting private info to the site without a parents consent. Which we do.

You'll forgive me if I am wrong, but your "points" looked more like a poorly disguised attempt to steam-roll me. If you have nothing else to add, I'd ask you kindly to reflect on what it is you are actually trying to accomplish and then to find a better way to do it.
All you have to do is search "14-17" in the member search and as of now you get 799 results. Many of these minors give their full name, town and state, probably in direct violation of some minor privacy laws. Do you think for one second Ning is going to back you and Richard up if some parents sue because their 14 year old daughter got raped by some whackjob?

Blowing off suggestions to protect you is really wise.


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