Zeeks.com Shuts Down Chat Room

ByABC News
September 14, 2000, 5:50 PM

S A N  F R A N C I S C O, Sept. 14 -- While federal officials work out the kinksof implementing a law aimed at protecting children from onlinepornography, at least one major Web site for kids is saying themeasure is hurting its legitimate business.

Steven Bryan, CEO of Zeeks.com, said Wednesday the costs ofcomplying with the 1998 Childrens Online Privacy Protection Actare simply too high. Zeeks.com, the 15th most popular entertainmentsite for children according to Media Metrix Inc., will pull itse-mail and chat-room services Oct. 1. and try to make up for thepredicted 20 percent loss in traffic with additional games.

COPPA requires commercial Web sites to obtain verifiableparental consent before any child under 13 participates in anyinteractive activity such as e-mails or chat rooms. It alsorequires parental consent before a site uses any personalinformation, such as a name or address, from children under 13.Consent can be verified, among other ways, through postal mail or atelephone call.

Zeeks.com, which gets about 1,000 new members a day and hasabout 650,000 registered users, estimated that it costs the company$200,000 a year to comply with the law. The costs includeprocessing parental consent forms and hiring a dozen employees tomonitor the chat rooms for 12 hours each day.

It was the straw that broke the camels back, Bryan said ofthe law, which went into effect in April. Its expensive to runthose services already and with COPPA, it got more expensive, andit cant be paid for with marginal advertising revenue.

Law Important Tool Against Pedophiles

Proponents contend the law is important in deterring childpredators from using such sites and for protecting the privacy ofchildren in the same way they are protected in the real world.

The alternative is for those sites to put kids at risk, saidLee Peeler, the Federal Trade Commissions associate director foradvertising practices.