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AOL and Hufington Post Exploiting Child Labor?

The AOL-owned web entities Patch and Huffington Post have begun recruiting adolescents as unpaid bloggers. HuffPo is looking for teens to contribute to HuffPost High School, an upcoming vertical, and Patch welcomes community bloggers 13 years of age and older. Of course, the Internet already has a large population of teen bloggers, but they’re not writing for major media outlets.

Jeff Bercovici of Forbes considers the ethical implications of adding unpaid minors to AOL’s blogging workforce:

People share overly personal information and make fools of themselves on the web every day, but the impulsiveness of teenagers plus the visibility of Huffpo could be a uniquely combustible mixture. Should teenagers who can’t legally vote, drink or have sex be allowed to decide for themselves what to publish in a place where it could potentially be read by millions of people? What if a 15-year-old wants to write confessionally about having an abortion, as this adult writer did, or joke about smoking marijuana, as this writer did?

Bercovici reached out to an AOL spokesman about what kind of policies and safeguards would be enacted to protect these underage bloggers, but got only the vague response: “We’re planning on making the site a safe, positive place for teens to share their perspectives.”

Read Bercovici’s full column here.

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