TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Yahoo Shuts Down Chat Rooms Amid Child Sex Concerns

Yahoo Shuts Down Chat Rooms Amid Child Sex Concerns

Lisa Minter (
Thu, 23 Jun 2005 14:11:38 -0500

By Duncan Martell

Yahoo Inc. the most-used Internet site, has shut down all its
user-created Internet chat rooms amid concerns that adults were using
the sites to try to have sex with minors.

The giant Internet media company closed down those chat rooms and the
ability to create new ones "in the past week," said Yahoo spokeswoman
Mary Osako.

Chat rooms created and sponsored by Yahoo itself remain open, Osako
said. The number of user-created chat rooms is variable at any given
time and Yahoo does not track that figure, she said.

The user-created chat rooms in question, where Internet users converse
in real time, had names including "Girls 13 And Under For Older Guys"
and "Girls 13 And Up For Much Older Men" and were all listed under
"education chat rooms," Houston television station KPRC reported.

"We are working on improvements to the service to enhance users'
experience and their compliance with our terms of service," Osako
said. "Yahoo condemns the use of Internet tools for illegal

KPRC reported last month that major advertisers including PepsiCo
Inc., Georgia-Pacific Corp. and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance
Co. removed their ads after the station found the ads were appearing
on Yahoo user-created chat rooms that were aimed at sex with children.

"As soon as we found out we pulled our ads," said Pepsi spokesman Dave
DeCecco. "We were totally unaware our ads were associated with those
chat rooms -- and that was back in April."

Pepsi continues to advertise on other parts of Yahoo's site, mostly in
sports and music sections, but pulled all its ads in user-created chat

"They were down the same day we found out about it," DeCecco said,
referring to the ads on user chat rooms.

"We were horrified to find out we were on those sites," said
Georgia-Pacific spokeswoman Robin Keegan, who said that the company
still advertises on other parts of Yahoo. "As soon as we found out,
that day we pulled that advertising."

A spokesperson for State Farm was not immediately available to

The concern over online safety for children using the Internet has
surged with the number of people using the Internet, which allows for
anonymous and sometimes hard-to-trace communication and content.

It's also not the first time that Yahoo has faced the issue of users
taking advantage of its free services to lure young children.

A minor and his parents in May filed a $10 million lawsuit against
Yahoo and a man who once operated a Yahoo Groups site where members
traded child pornography.

Many attorneys argue that the Communications Decency Act shields Web
sites from responsibility for material posted by users.

But the lawsuit, filed on May 9 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern
District of Texas, charged that Yahoo breached its duties by allowing
co-defendant Mark Bates and others to share child pornography on a
site, called Candyman, that Mister Bates created and moderated via the
Yahoo Groups service.

A child pornography investigation led by the U.S. Federal Bureau of
Investigation and dubbed Operation Candyman targeted Yahoo Groups
users and ultimately resulted in the arrest of more than 100 people in
the United States.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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