The fact that The Huffington Post doesn't pay their bloggers has always been a contentious issue, and the latest report that they're now recruiting teenagers as young as 13 to blog for free will certainly not win them any more fans. Jeff Bercovici at Forbes reports that "as AOL's Huffington Post Media Group gears up for the launch of its next vertical, HuffPost High School. It will join an ever-expanding constellation of topic sites that already includes religion, tech, parenting and divorce. But it will be unique in that it will be the only site produced by minors: Its editor, wunderkind Myles Miller, is only 17, and it will feature the work of teenage bloggers."
It should not come as a surprise that this fact angered Jonathan Tasini, the guy behind a class action lawsuit against The Huffington Post over alleged labor law violations related to their blogs. A former president of the National Writers Union compared the effort to child labor and called Arianna a couple of bad things. "I assume for the no-ethics, no-morals owner the next step after middle school students is importing work from surplus slave labor in China," he told Bercovici who raised a few of his own concerns about privacy. "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?"
It's unclear exactly where the bar of ethics will fall. We've known that Miller, a minor himself, would be running the site for a while now, but the new details about the role of underage bloggers complicates the equation. Miller has been recruiting actively for weeks, and while he says that the young bloggers will retain the rights to their posts, he doesn't provide any details about checks and balances. In an August post on the City Year blog, he asked for anything and everything:
I know what it's like to dream big and feel like no one is listening. So, if you've ever wanted to be a reporter, writer, poet, investigator, photographer, here's your shot.
I'd love to offer you the opportunity to blog for Huffington Post High School--a brand new section dedicated to teens that is launching this fall. In order to write for us, you must be betwen the ages of 14-18. There are no deadlines or commitment; you can blog to your heart's desire or whenever your muse strikes.
Myler's last sentence tends to be the refrain given by The Huffington Post's spokesperson about why unpaid blogging doesn't violate labor laws. However, not until the site goes live, and teenagers start posting will we know the extent to which adolescent bloggers will overshare on the site--just like the adult bloggers have been doing for six years.
Full disclosure: I worked as an editor at The Huffington Post from 2009 to the end of 2010