Thursday, April 21, 2005

AOL and safe chat

I was recently asked by a journalist about AOL and safe chat. It was in connection with litigation. I explained that I could not comment on ongoing litigation and could speak about AOL's history as one of the safest services online for children.

We discussed that ISPs face more liability for taking on monitoring at all. And AOL is one of the few services that bothered to try and keep children safe within their channels. That's why time and time again WiredKids and WiredSafety have presented AOL with recognition and awards for their safety and security programs for children.

Unfortunately, when asked about their hiring and screening practices, I responded as a cyberspace lawyer, and explained that I did not know what they did. (Although I indicated that, knowing AOL, they probably would have taken proper precautions.) I then explained that any issue about employees isn't about safe chat, it was a legal issue of hiring practices. But when I was identified as both a lawyer and a child safety expert, the comment took on an implication that was unintended and untrue.

The comment, standing alone, made it appear that I was critical of AOL. I am not.
I think they are one of the few places where kids can chat safely online.

People who know me know that I am never shy about criticizing big companies. I do what I think is right for kids and a safer Internet. So, if I had been critical of AOL, I would have been quite clear about what I felt was wrong. But I wasn't. Not here.

I was clarifying the legal issue, as a lawyer. Explaining that the allegations, if proven in court, had nothing to do with safe chat.

When long interviews are taken, and shorter articles are written, many wish that the quotes used were different from the one actually used. We may wish that a different spin was taken. But much ends up on the editors' cuttingroom floor.

To be fair to AOL, I spoke at length about how good they are for kids.
They have clarified their hiring practices and screening practices. I have always had faith in them, that hasn't changed.