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Business

Huffington Post buys Boston start-up

Localocracy to aid AOL subsidiary on Web projects

Adding to a string of recent expansions, AOL’s Huffington Post Media Group said yesterday it will buy a Boston technology start-up that is focused on building civic participation through websites.

Localocracy, which two years ago received $10,000 in seed funding from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Innovation Challenge, was sold for less than $1 million, according to the technology news site All Things D, which is owned by Dow Jones. Localocracy would not disclose terms of the sale.

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Three of the company’s four employees will join Huffington Post Media Group “to work on special projects that will be rolled out across Huffington Post and Patch,’’ AOL’s network of hyperlocal news sites, said Conor White-Sullivan, Localocracy’s chief executive.

“Huffington Post is really all about engagement, and that is one of the things that made it interesting for us,’’ he said.

White-Sullivan, 23, started Localocracy while he was a junior studying anthropology at UMass Amherst. The Salem native has yet to finish his degree because he took time off from school to work on the start-up.

Localocracy has worked with several Massachusetts communities and news organizations, including Boston.com, to manage their online discussion boards. For example, it sometimes sets up such boards to limit participation to registered voters.

“They’re pioneers in using the Web to empower citizens to improve their towns,’’ said Arianna Huffington, cofounder of Huffington Post and president of the media group, in a statement.

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Since it was bought by AOL in March for $315 million, Huffington Post has spawned a collection of offshoots that include HuffPost Parents and HuffPost Travel.

“We’ve launched over 20 sites, all going beyond politics,’’ said Mario Ruiz, vice president of Communications for AOL, in an e-mail.

Yesterday, Huffington Post announced it was starting Huff/Post50, a site targeted at baby boomers that will be edited by Rita Wilson; HuffPost Gay Voices; HuffPost Weddings; and HuffPost High School.

White-Sullivan said his team may work with Huffington Post on ways to increase user-generated content and help it keep an already active readership engaged in the site. In August, Huffington Post said, the Huffington Post website attracted its highest number of reader comments ever, 5.1 million.

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.

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