[LINK] Yahoo! blasted for chat room apathy
Fri, 10 Nov 2000 20:38:40 +1100 (EST)
A story from ZDNet about Yahoo making access to adult chat rooms too
easy access in the UK.
Yahoo! blasted for chat room apathy
By Wendy McAuliffe, ZDNet (UK)
November 9, 2000 11:55 AM PT
Two leading children's charities have lambasted Internet giant Yahoo!
for the way it runs its Instant Messaging service and chat rooms.
Following an investigation by ZDNet UK News, Nigel Williams, director
of Childnet International, expressed concern at the way Yahoo! runs
adult-rated chats on the main screen of its instant chat service,
Messenger. Williams is also founder of Chatdanger.com, a site looking
into the dangers of Internet chat rooms.
Childnet set up Chatdanger.com in October to coincide with the
sentencing of Internet pedophile Patrick Green.
Williams explained that Chatdanger.com was designed to "raise
awareness among children and parents about the potential dangers of
unmoderated Internet chat rooms, and to seek to put pressure on those
companies providing chat to do more to protect children."
'Misused' chat rooms But Williams' hopes for companies to adopt a
more proactive approach to running chat rooms appears to be in direct
contrast to Yahoo!'s policy. Catherine Taylor, marketing director at
Yahoo!, explained Wednesday: "We will only take it down (a room or
chat area) if it breaks the law or if it is inciting to break the
While Yahoo!'s chat rooms break no laws, Williams thinks it
inappropriate for a family-oriented service to allow rooms like
"pre-teen sex" and "11 to 19 year old sluts" (as displayed on Yahoo!
Messenger's chat room list) to be made available to children.
John Carr, Internet consultant at NCH Action for Children, says
Yahoo!'s policy is "completely reprehensible."
"Yahoo! is being very irresponsible, as they know that chat rooms are
being misused by pedophiles. They are Pontius Pilate, and have washed
their hands of this new world that they are creating."
Last week, Yahoo!'s Messenger client was upgraded to Version 3.5. On
launch, the new client highlighted rooms with clear pedophile themes
from the opening screen. Chat rooms alluding to discussion threads
clearly inappropriate for children remain accessible. In fact,
they're merely one click away from the opening screen to anyone using
Yahoo! IM; this is despite the fact that days after launch, the
company placed the rooms deeper into the service.
Yahoo!: Censorship isn't the answer Yahoo! told ZDNet it was working
with Childnet in educating children about the dangers of using chat
rooms. However, for Williams that is not enough. "Yahoo! has to
recognize that because they are a leading Web site, they have a
responsibility to set some industry standards on this issue. The
nature of their chat and their users is of great concern," he said.
Yahoo! maintains that censorship is not the way to deal with the
dangers associated with using chat rooms. "We wouldn't censor the
chat rooms through subjective decisions such as someone not liking
gays," Taylor said. Taylor reiterated that Yahoo! would only remove a
room if it was found to contain illegal content.
Yahoo! has confirmed that it does not employ staff to check whether
illegal content is being posted in its chat rooms.
Recent research by media magazine Campaign Magazine found teenagers
to spend an average of 191.2 minutes a month on Yahoo! Messenger,
making it the most popular "site" (sic) in that age group. Taylor
said "it has a very high usage amongst teens."
She also insists that Yahoo! discourages children under the age of 13
from registering with its products. Childnet is unhappy, however,
that the warnings are deeply embedded in the text. Williams said he
is pursuing the site to have warnings placed higher on the service.
"We're waiting for Yahoo! to get back to us about a meeting. I
emailed them at the beginning of the week. ... We're not going to let
this go and we will continue to push Yahoo! further."
Following conversations with Yahoo! Wednesday, requests for reaction
to Williams' and Carr's comments have gone unanswered.
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