McGraw

CHARLESTON - West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw, along with 22 other AGs, has signed his name to a letter expressing concern over safeguards to a beer-themed Web site.

Lead prosecutors Charles Foti of Louisiana and Steven Rowe of Maine admitted recently that they had no evidence that minors had entered Anheuser-Busch's Bud.TV Web site, but they said it's "clear that more could be done to safeguard children."

Jill Miles, head of McGraw's Consumer Protection Division, said she had no specific knowledge of the problems alleged by the attorneys general. A request to speak with whichever staffer investigated the site for McGraw was not answered.

The letter asks St. Louis-based brewer to add stricter age-verification tools for the site, which already asks visitors for their name, zip code and birth date. The information is checked against public records.

"Despite these extraordinary efforts, some have urged us to make the age verification process more difficult and even more invasive of people's privacy," company spokeswoman Francine Katz said in a statement.

The attorneys general request that visitors have to enter their name and full address or a driver's license number before being allowed access to the site, which was launched after this year's Super Bowl and streams beer-themed shows, sports events and musical acts.

Anheuser-Busch said it has faced criticism that the age checks already implemented were too cumbersome and turning away some adults.

The other 20 attorneys general who sent the letter are from Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming.

The move has been met with some criticism on the Internet. Some bloggers, for example, have slammed the effort as another push by state AGs toward a nanny state.

In an entry Monday entitled "Safeguarding the children from beer" on the blogsite realbeer.com, author Stan Hieronymus notes that the Web site is as easy to block from children's viewing as an adult-themed cable-TV channel.

"Are these government officials taking this stance because Anheuser-Busch is a target they can easily identify (as opposed to a gazillion pornographic websites that have no similar mechanisms)?," he wrote. "Or could it be because beer is involved?"

The theme of parental responsibility is echoed by HistoryBuff in "Makers of Budweiser discouraged from making a beer-themed website" on the blogsite forum.gorillamask.net.

"It seems like every time attorney generals mention 'it's for the children' the rest of society gets burned," the author noted.

LegalNewsLine.com reporter Rob Luke also contributed to this story.

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