COPPA and Gaia

Hey Gaians,

Today we wanted to take a moment to talk about Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA, for short). COPPA is a federal law that took effect on April 21, 2000. The idea behind the law is to keep the personal information of children (the law defines “children” in this case as any person under the age of 13 years old) private and off the internet, unless consent is given by a parent or legal guardian. How does the law define personal information? It’s actually pretty simple. Personal information includes, but is not limited to:

  • First and last name
  • A physical address
  • Online contact information
  • A screen or username that functions as online contact information
  • Telephone number
  • Social security number
  • A photograph, video, or audio file that contains a child’s image or voice

This is only a short list and does not have everything that is considered personal information.

So what does all this mean for Gaia? Well we are legally obligated to abide by the COPPA law. This means that we cannot collect this information before we have verifiable consent from the parent, if we do not have that consent, the information cannot be taken and if it already exists, then it must be removed. No exceptions. As a result, if we discover that someone is under 13 on Gaia, we must take action against their account.

“But Gaia! Can’t you just add something to registration to get parental consent?”

Unfortunately it’s not that easy, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has very strict guidelines on what they consider verifiable parental consent, up to and including, sending and receiving a written and signed letter from the parent. As you can imagine, on a site where thousands of users are registering a day, it’s simply not feasible. In fact, most websites and mobile apps that are not directed specifically toward children do not get parental consent and, instead, take same approach as Gaia and removes the information upon being informed that a user is under 13.

“Okay, that makes sense. So what happens if I’m under 13 and Gaia finds out?”

Simple. If Gaia finds out that you are under 13, the following will happen:

  • Your account will be permanently banned.
  • You may file an appeal to get your account back by sending us valid government ID that indicates you are over the age of 13.
  • Your posts will be deleted.
  • Your username will be changed.
  • The e-mail on your account will be changed.
  • Your profile sections will be disabled and removed.
  • Your profile will be set to hidden.

This does not apply to just your main account, but every account you have from that point and going forward. This means that if you create another account to appeal the ban before your eligibility date, then that account will also be banned. You may appeal the ban by filing a ticket to our Help Center, you must include a form of legal, government ID that indicates you are over the age of 13. Otherwise your account won't be eligible for unban until Gaia has reason to believe it is over 13.

“What if I’m joking? Let’s say I say, ‘I’m 10! Lol jk jk jk! I’m actually 21’”

People like to joke, we get it, and if we were all hanging out in real life and could see you and knew you, then that would be awesome. However, this is all online. While technology has come a long way, Gaia has yet to develop a way to get high tech cameras into every house of our users. Maybe one day… But until then, we don’t know that you’re joking. We don’t know for a fact how old you really are. You could be 10, you could be 13, 21, you could even be 111 and be the most kickin’ technology intelligent elder, we don’t know! As a result, even if you explicitly say that you are joking, even if you are using the well-known, “I'm twelve years old and what is this?” Meme you will still be subject to a COPPA ban. Again, no exceptions. At all.

“Gaia, I’m 1 year old! I mean, come on, seriously?”

Enjoy your 12 year ban. Yeah, seriously. We’ve issued bans for that. We’re not joking. You will get banned and you will not be unbanned until you are 13 or older. Don’t risk your account over a joke.

“I don’t really feel like reading this, tl;dr?”

You really should read it, if only to educate yourself and others. However, to summarize.

  • COPPA is a federal law that Gaia is legally obligated to follow.
  • If you admit to being under the age of 13, then your all your accounts and future accounts will be permanently banned until you are 13.
  • You will have to appeal the ban by providing government ID indicating you are over 13, otherwise you will not be eligible for an unban until we have reason to believe you are over 13.
  • Joking will get you banned. Even if it’s incredibly obvious. No fun allowed. Sorry. (Not sorry, come on, it's the law.)

We thank you for taking your time to read this and we hope it helps keep your account safe! Educate yourself on other issues by checking out these links!

Reminder: Subjects You Should NOT Joke About
Reminder: Don't Post Sexually Explicit Content
Recognizing & Reporting Password Phishing
E-mails, Gaia Account, and Security: Why it's important
Gold Buying, Off-Site Trading, and You