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Xanga Pays Big Fine, Plans to Adopt ESRB-like Content Ratings

There are ratings for movie, video games, music, T.V., and soon, perhaps, for social networking sites?

Could be, in the wake of a million dollar fine levied against Xanga. The popular site was charged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal data on kids under 13 and in turn using that information for targeted marketing.

As reported by MediaPost, the FTC charged Xanga, especially popular among adolescents, with creating nearly two million accounts for users under the age of 13. The FTC complaint reads in part:

"For each of these accounts, the defendants collected, used, and disclosed personal information from children under age 13... the defendants marketed, and in at least two instances sold, targeted banner ad space on Xanga.com to advertisers based on the personal information... provided by such children."

In addition to hiring a "Chief Safety Officer," and other precuationary measures, a press release maintains that Xanga plans on "creating a ratings system for its user-generated content, modeled after the movie and video game industries, which empowers our online community to help limit access to age-inappropriate materials."

That's believed to be a first, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out and whether other social networking sites, such as MySpace, follow suit.

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