Teen social network founder meets congressman for lunch

After hearing about the alternative social network website ThePortalz.com, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th) contacted Wilton resident and the website’s co-founder Julianna Yee, and asked her to meet for lunch and discuss the site.

On Wednesday, Aug. 20, 17-year-old Julianna met the congressman at the Village Luncheonette on Old Ridgefield Road.

Over fresh salads with grilled chicken and pita, Julianna said, she and Mr. Himes talked about the importance of online responsibility.

“Congressman Himes is very knowledgeable when it comes to technology,” she said.

“He recognizes that Internet safety and privacy, among other things, are challenges that span across many online sites — especially when it comes to interaction on social networks.”

The Portalz is an efficient and privacy-oriented social networking website founded by Julianna and her father Bill Yee, which launched at the end of April.

The Portalz has three age-based communities, private social networks, one-on-one instant messaging, and applications with individual privacy settings, which allow for improved privacy and collaboration.

The Portalz sets itself apart from other social network websites in that individuals are not allowed to directly sign up for user accounts, Julianna told The Bulletin in June.

Instead, she said, adults are given the responsibility to create user accounts on behalf of other people.

Julianna explained that when a user account is made on The Portalz, each user must be assigned to a specific age-based community by the administrator.

“Individuals assigned to one community cannot communicate with someone from another community, unless they are a part of the same ‘Private Social Network,’” she explained.

Julianna said education about cyberbullying and its prevention were also discussed during her hour-and-a-half lunch meeting with Mr. Himes.

“We talked about the importance of online responsibility and how it begins with each and every one of us,” said Julianna.

“Safety was discussed at length and how its solution includes the coming together of numerous factors in order to be ensured.”

The day after the lunch meeting, Congressman Himes tweeted about The Portalz with a photo of him and Julianna at lunch:

Julianna said she was very excited to see the tweet.

“I am so appreciative that recognition is given by a government official who so genuinely cares about the welfare of families and people in general,” she said.

Julianna said The Portalz is growing daily and has received “wonderful feedback and comments.”

“ThePortalz.com shows that giving people responsibility to create and manage user accounts, allowing private social networks to be formed by site design and having separate age-based communities all contribute in a positive way to everyone’s safety and overall experience,” said Julianna.

“This is something that we are proud of, especially when it also has found agreement and acknowledgment from a distinguished member from our House of Representatives, Congressman Jim Himes.”