An internet acquaintance reached out to me earlier this month (via Twitter, ironically) to ask whether we have any input on an issue that he found troubling.
He had seen a Twitter user, who is currently under the age of 13, revealing personal details on the site and who was in communication with an older user who appeared to be up to no good. The older user actually went through with some Twitter investigating and appeared to have ascertained the young user’s address.
I’m not going to reveal any names, but the story doesn’t end there. My acquaintance documented the details of the underage user and the contact with the older user, and reported them to Twitter. As of the last time I spoke with my acquaintance, Twitter had not responded.
The question is whether Twitter will delete or suspend the account of an underage user if they possess proof that the user is under 13, and especially if he is engaging in unsafe behavior.
Getting no response from Twitter, my acquaintance reached out to the Federal Trade Commission. As follows is the response from Cheryl Hackley from the Office of Public Affairs of the FTC:
“COPPA applies to child-directed websites and online services that collect personal information from children under the age of 13, as well as to general audience sites and services that have knowledge they are collecting personal information from children. In determining whether a site or service is child-directed, the FTC looks at a number of factors that are enumerated in the Commission’s COPPA Rule. Similarly, the determination of whether a general audience site or service has actual knowledge is fact-specific and will depend upon a number of factors.
As to your specific question, whether an operator has actual knowledge they have collected personal information from a child is fact specific, but it is not the case that they can only get that actual knowledge from a parent. There are cases where operators may learn they have collected personal information from children from a school or teacher or other third party.”
It seems pretty clear from the above that if a Good Samaritan reports a young user in a potentially dangerous situation, and proof is supplied that the user is under the age of 13, then it is the responsibility of Twitter to delete or suspend the account.
As of this writing, the account has indeed been suspended. Nice job Twitter.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.