The online news collecting company Topix has tweaked its website and dropped a $19.99 fee it charged for faster reviews of inappropriate posts as part of a settlement with 34 states announced Monday.
Topix.com collects news from thousands of sources and allows users to comment on the stories or other topics in its forums. Before last week, the site had charged them to speed up reviews of complaints they made about inappropriate posts.
The settlement calls for the Palo Alto, Calif., company to eliminate the fee and to try to review all complaints within three working days.
"I am pleased that we've reached an agreement to put a stop to the 'pay-to-police' policy," Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said in announcing the deal.
Topix CEO Chris Tolles said agreeing to the settlement was the easiest way to resolve the dispute and eliminate concerns about fairness. He said it wasn't worth it for his small company to fight.
"At the end of the day, we want to do what's right by the consumer," Tolles said.
The website's previous policy had been to review comments within seven to 14 days unless a fee was paid, although Tolles has said most complaints were reviewed within four days. It gets about 40,000 feedback e-mails each month.
The website also eliminated an option to flag posts that confused some users. Previously, users could flag an objectionable item on the website, but the item wouldn't be reviewed until several different people flagged it. That process wasn't clear to everyone.
Topix.com removes comments that detract from the conversation, make threats or are libelous. But it doesn't regularly monitor content except for an automatic scanning program that looks for hate speech or heated language.
On its website, Topix says users are solely responsible for what they post. The privately held company is backed by three of the nation's biggest newspaper firms: Gannett Co., McClatchy Co. and Tribune Co.