Laws about internet forums - for minors
November 21, 2006 7:12 PM   Subscribe

I want to start an internet forum for kids - what are the applicable laws?

When I join forums, sometimes I see a disclaimer asking if I'm over 13. This makes me think that their must be some law about this.

What is that law? Does anyone know what it is called, or where I can find the text? Or any advice for people wanting to start such a forum?

I also understand that kids under 13 must have parents permission. In what form must that permission come? Can they just check a radio box that says "I have my parent's permission"? (assuming they do.)
posted by bulanjing to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should read up on the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
posted by FreezBoy at 7:18 PM on November 21, 2006

COPPA is extremely restrictive, FYI.
posted by k8t at 7:19 PM on November 21, 2006

In what form must that permission come?

From the PDF Sliding Scale Mechanism for Obtaining Verifiable Parental Consent Extended Indefinitely:
Therefore, the Rule sets forth a sliding scale approach to obtaining verifiable parental consent. If the website operator is collecting personal information for its internal use only, the Rule allows verifiable parental consent to be obtained through the use of an e-mail message to the parent, coupled with additional steps to provide assurances that the person providing the consent is, in fact, the parent. Such additional steps include: sending a delayed confirmatory e- mail to the parent after receiving consent or obtaining a postal address or telephone number from the parent and confirming the parent’s consent by letter or telephone call.

In contrast, for uses of personal information that involve disclosing the information to the public or third parties, the Rule requires that website operators use more reliable methods of obtaining verifiable parental consent. These methods include: using a print-and-send form that can be faxed or mailed back to the website operator; requiring a parent to use a credit card in connection with a transaction; having a parent call a toll-free telephone number staffed by trained personnel; using a digital certificate that uses public key technology; and using e-mail accompanied by a PIN or password obtained through one of the above methods.9 As noted in the Rule’s Statement of Basis and Purpose, “the record shows that disclosures to third parties are among the most sensitive and potentially risky uses of children’s personal information.”
If it were me, I would not go anywhere near COPPA. It seems like you don't have to worry about any of this if you don't actually collect any personal information (which is defined in 1302 (8) as one or more of:
(A) a first and last name;

(B) a home or other physical address including street name and name of a city or town;

(C) an e-mail address;

(D) a telephone number;

(E) a Social Security number;

(F) any other identifier that the Commission determines permits the physical or online contacting of a specific individual; or

(G) information concerning the child or the parents of that child that the website collects online from the child and combines with an identifier described in this paragraph.
Therefore, if you just have kids sign up with a username and password, and ensure that they use an alias/nick and not their real name, it looks like you're off the hook. Don't collect email address, location, telephone number, etc. This makes running a typical forum kind of hard as you can't do e.g. password recovery or email notification of posts, but it's a lot easier than having to FAX a form to everyone that signs up.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:51 PM on November 21, 2006

Oh and disable PMs, as that would fall under something that permits the physical or online contacting of a specific individual, i.e. Mr. Molesto McCreepypants could PM a bunch of youngsters with skeevy messages after reading their posts on the forum.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:57 PM on November 21, 2006

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