Here is the first post in our series on rules. The object is to have a transparent discussion of these rules so that everyone might better understand them and so that we (the moderation team) might better enforce them. Input is welcome.

The Rule:

1. Members must be at least thirteen years of age to join or participate on this site.


The Reason:
Whether or not we think much of this rule is actually rather immaterial as this rule is technically not ours; it is a rule that we must enforce because it was handed to us by Ning as a part of their terms of service:

The Ning Platform is not directed to children younger than 13 and is offered only to users 13 years of age or older. If you are under 13
years old, please do not use the Ning Platform. Any person who provides
their personal information through the Ning Platform represents to us
that they are 13 years of age or older.*

and

You also agree not to knowingly collect any information from, or develop any Networks that are targeted at children under the age of 13.*

*Source: http://about.ning.com/legal/tos.php

As Ning provides this "platform," we must agree to this rule to use their service. No service, no website. Feel free to comment, but I can't say that it will do any good. Until such a time as Ning sees fit to change this, it is set in stone.

The Action:
If we find someone who is under the age of 13, we will remove them from the site. This is not a situation where a "warning" is possible. They will be, of course, be free to re-join once they reach their 13th birthday.


Stay tuned, Rule #2 is coming soon!

Exciting, isn't it?






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Replies to This Discussion

All you have to do is search "14-17" in the member search and as of now you get 799 results. Many of these minors give their full name, town and state, probably in direct violation of some minor privacy laws. Do you think for one second Ning is going to back you and Richard up if some parents sue because their 14 year old daughter got raped by some whackjob?

Blowing off suggestions to protect you is really wise.
Damn Dave. Sorry someone peed in your cornflakes every day of the last month or so. I don't think I've seen one comment from you in a long time that wasn't all cranky and rude.

If you would actually read what has been written you would see that no one is ignoring anything. I even commented how I was going to implement suggestions and investigate others further.

According to all current laws, we are doing everything we are required to do. If counsel suggests something further, we will heed that as well.

Any positive or constructive suggestions?
@MoJoe: I only saw your last comment now. It is unfortunate that any questions or concerns expressed are brushed off by you like this and considered to be an attempt to "steamroll" you. That's not the case at all. On the other hand, it seems as if your response is indicative of the very problem on this site--hyper-sensitivity to any questions or challenges to statements. As someone tasked with dealing with community concerns, you should probably be the last person to respond as you did.

I did find Richard's response far more helpful, and hope that in future discussions you will adopt a similar tone.
@Richard. The tenor of my response was only in direct relation to the earlier reply of the "community manager".

As far as suggestions go, maybe I'll wait until we get to the cranky and rude rule discussion.
One of the benefits of being on the Ning Network is that we are covered by them. They have dealt with privacy issues thoroughly. Here is a link to their privacy page: http://about.ning.com/legal/privacy.php. Though we are not required, it may be beneficial to put a link to these at the bottom of Nexus.

Also, as someone stated earlier, the law requires someone to be at least 13. Facebook and MySpace upped it to 14 just to be sure. When we first dealt with this rule we considered doing the same, but decided against it because of email we have received from 13-year-olds who rely on Nexus as a refuge from their day to day lives. This is also why we do our best to make sure things are marked NSFW if necessary.

Of course, like with all sites, someone could lie and join anyway. Stating the rule and banning anyone who openly breaks the rule is all we can do.

Joe is listing these rules to make sure we all have an understanding of what is going on before he starts enforcing them. As many have stated, and I have admitted, we have not done a good job of moderating Nexus in the past. This is the whole reason I asked Joe to moderate things. We will remain open to ideas and suggestions (like the above mentioned privacy page), and make changes if necessary. There are no promises however.

My hope now is that we will all try and be a part of the solution. Anyone can complain and should do so if needed. But at some point, we have to move on.

I'm thinking that as each of these rules are discussed, and changes are made if necessary, that I will post a closing comment like this and then close the discussion. I'm pretty sure this issue is settled. To make sure, I will leave it open until tomorrow. I really hope some of you will make constructive suggestions.
See, this is a very good answer. I do suggest including the Privacy Policy on the main page, since not everyone who comes to the site will know that it is a Ning site or know where to go to find the Ning privacy policy.

Another suggestion is based on the EPA's ruling on Children’s Privacy and Copyright Issues here. This deals with the posting of images by children that might be used to identify them, and includes school photos, etc. One reason I am raising this issue is that the policy concerns "concerns the collection, both online and offline, of information from children ages 13 and under." In other words, even 13 year olds who would be permitted to use the site, would not be covered until their 14th birthday. While that ruling is limited to the EPA, it has yet to be seen whether identifying photographs are covered by COPPA. One possible solution would be that children as young as thirteen may join, but they may not post self-identifying photos until 14 or 15. I'd probably just poll parents of kids that age asking at what age they would be comfortable with their kids' pics posted online.

Rulings about kids in general are pretty fluid, and with the shift to the right in American politics it is possible that COPPA rules may be considered too lax. The FTC is already investigating virtual worlds, not only for kids but for teens and even adults, and there are consequences for everyone (consider the Craig's List scandals recently, or this case of a 14-year-old on Facebook. For better or for worse, many politicians are afraid of the Internet and the openness it brings with it. I think the subtitle of the Sept. 19 (yesterday) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article says it all: "Crude postings prompt a re-examination of laws protecting Internet users." Section 230 of the CDA, which otherwise would provide liability protection, is coming under attack.

Finally, I want to be clear. I am not making these comments or suggestions to be snide. These are simply issues that I have dealt with professionally within the past five years on a Top-10 website. They pose enormous dilemmas. At Wikipedia, for instance, I fought to keep the age as young as possible. I would probably do the same here. On the other hand, while Wikipedia is a relatively harmless site, I can imagine some people considering an atheist website nefarious and dangerous. Since it is not (yet?) a huge Internet powerhouse like WP or FB or Google, it is also more vulnerable to hostile action.
Duly noted. I'm pretty sure we are covered through Ning, but I will look into it just in case.

Facebook and MySpace have avoided legitimate litigation, so I will see if they are doing something different than we are. If anyone has any other information to help me in my search, please email it to me.
Reading the last several comments I'll restate that Rule #1 seems fine to me.

- It's in accordance with the law.

- Yes, we get into some adult discussions here, but as someone else mentioned, a 13 year old is hearing a lot worse on the playground. If a 13 year old is to follow a discussion about sexuality, this is a safer and hopefully far more accurate/informative place to do so than the playground.

- Atheist teens can be very limited on Theist-free safe havens. I'm glad A/N can provide one for them.

On the value of discussing the rules and how...

I don't see where it is 'bullshit.' There have been complaints lately about people not following site rules and confusion on the specifics of some of those rules. An open discussion, including entertaining the possibility that some rules might warrant revising, sounds constructive to me. Not bullshit.
OK. Talk is good, but cheap. Actual enforcement of whatever regurgitation of the Ning ToS the new community manager comes up with will be the measuring stick if anything meaningful comes from this exercise.
And I'm willing to give the administrators the benefit of the doubt. They've started these discussions by first acknowledging there have been some problems and that they have been spread too thin to deal with them all. Hence the reorganization and call for community input.

They can't jump in a time machine, go back to whenever you became unhappy with the administration, and do it over. At least I don't think moJoe has a time machine.

With many of the site rules being subjective, they're never going to be able to enforce them to the satisfaction of all 19,000 members. The person getting spanked and their loyal fans will probably think the spanking is undeserved. The person asking for the spanking will probably think it's more deserved than it really is. Welcome to human nature.

I'm willing to give moJoe and company the benefit of the doubt. But that's just me.
Jo Jerome: I don't see where it is 'bullshit.' There have been complaints lately about people not following site rules and confusion on the specifics of some of those rules. An open discussion, including entertaining the possibility that some rules might warrant revising, sounds constructive to me. Not bullshit.

Ok. What is ambiguous about these?

9.a Web links with no adequate accompanying description or explanation.
9.b Embedded media with no adequate accompanying description or explanation.


And what is so impossible about enforcing them? I know (because, paradoxically, despite being resident asshole and crown prince of dicks, I am this site's father confessor and I somehow end up listening to everyone's bitching and with the patience of a saint) that some moderators have explicitly been prevented form enforcing these rules. Bullshit?

And two recent examples brought to management attention -

1) A retrofitted reality pseudo-history blog that owes more to Dan Browne than any actual peer reviewed research has some of it's assumptions questioned by a skeptic. The result? Another mass-deletion party, including the author deleting her own comments when they were pointed out as irrelevant ad hominems, unfounded accusations that the skeptic was hate mongering, stalking and verbally abusing the author. Yet another example of deliberately confusing the man and the ball, failing to address the argument and instead countering with personal attack and accusations of abuse - this is professional victim play at its best. Furthermore, when this behaviour was pointed out to the author, exactly the same type of spray was also returned. The entire thread, due to non-stop deletion, is now a swiss cheese of incoherence.

Action: No action.

2) My spitting the dummy at a poster who was relentlessly flooding the site, derailing multiple threads and even choking some groups to a standstill by voluminous, cyclic repetition of exactly the same crap ad nauseam despite cease and desist pleas from numerous other members.

Action: The sky falls in. Gibberish remains intact.

Bullshit? Evidently not. Standard operating procedure. Nothing to see here, please move along.
Rule # 1 is sensible.

It is in accordance with Ning ToS.

Some nuances have been brought forward that are to be researched further. Those nuances could result in refinement.

Interested persons have made their input assertively.

Seems the goals of this post are met.

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