July 26, 1999 11:10 AM PDT

AOL drops under-18 volunteer corps

America Online has given the pink slip to volunteers for its proprietary service who are younger than 18 years old.

In addition to barring under-18 volunteers, AOL also will begin staffing the areas aimed at children and teens within its proprietary service with AOL employees responsible for taking action against terms of service violations, the company said.

The move to end under-18 volunteer positions will affect between 400 and 500 volunteers in its "Community Leader" program, according to Rich D'Amato, an AOL spokesman.

"We are talking about a breadth of life experience and a level of maturity that will contribute to a better member experience monitoring those chat rooms with over-18-year-olds," D'Amato said.

AOL uses a network of volunteers numbering in the thousands to patrol and monitor areas such as message boards and chat rooms for violations of its terms of service.

AOL's use of volunteers has become a contentious issue. AOL is facing a lawsuit from some former Community Leaders for allegedly violating labor practices. These former volunteers have asked the Labor Department to investigate AOL's practices to see whether the company's use of volunteers violates the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

D'Amato said the decision was not related to the lawsuit or a potential Labor Department investigation.


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