Will Twitter Suspend Accounts of Known Minors?

twitter age limitThere is currently no strictly enforced age limit on Twitter. Its Privacy Policy states that the site is not to be used by children under 13, even though the site doesn’t ask new users their age when establishing an account. Presumably, if the new user is under 13 years of age, Twitter should either not allow the account to be established or refrain from collecting any personal information, in order to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Young users posting personal information after initial signup would probably also violate COPPA standards. For some actions within Twitter, the site does ask for a user’s age.

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.

 

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