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RealTime IT News

Yahoo Shuts Chat Room Doors

Yahoo has closed all of its user-created Internet chat rooms amid fears that adults are using the sites to lure minors into sexual acts.

"We began implementing the changes to Yahoo Chat user rooms in the past week," spokeswoman Mary Osako, said. "We are working on improvements to enhance the user experience in compliance with our terms of service."

She said Yahoo planned to resume the service some time in the future.

The user-created chat rooms were shut down not long after a series of reports last month by a Houston television station revealed that adults were using the sites to lure young children for sex.

Yahoo requires users to agree not to "harm minors in any way" or make available any content that is "unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortuous, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous or otherwise objectionable, " according to its Web site.

However, chat rooms set up and maintained by Yahoo remain open, Osako said.

Osako refused to say whether the report led to the Sunnyvale company's decision, but several big named advertisers did pull the plug on their ads that appeared in the chat rooms.

According to the Houston television station, KPRC, those chat rooms were named with blatant sexual overtones, 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."

When blue-chip advertisers PepsiCo, Georgia-Pacific and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance discovered their ads were running on some of the same sites featured on the television news report, they yanked the spots.

"We were completely unaware that our ads were associated with these chat rooms in any way," Dave DeCecco, a spokesman for PepsiCo, said in a statement. "As soon as we were aware we worked with Yahoo to immediately remove them."

Pepsi continues to advertise on other parts of Yahoo's site.