RealTime IT News

Yahoo Bars Illicit Chat Rooms

Yahoo is slamming the doors to chat rooms with names that may promote sex between adults and minors as part of an agreement with law enforcement agencies.

The announcement comes after the company closed all of its user-created Internet chat rooms in June amid fears that adults are using the sites to lure minors into sexual acts.

The Internet giant reached an agreement with the attorneys general of both New York and Nebraska to remove postings of user-created chat rooms with names that promote sex between minors and adults.

The agreement also calls for Yahoo to implement controls over chat rooms where users link up with children, view them on webcams and arrange meetings.

"We need to be vigilant to protect our children," New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said today in a statement. "It is imperative that parents, industry, prosecutors and lawmakers all work together to identify and address possible threats, and that we teach our children to protect themselves from those who would do them harm."

Spitzer says the agreement is the first of its kind and could lead to similar arrangements.

Yahoo has said it closed around 70,000 chat rooms that appeared to encourage illegal activity.

Chat rooms 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," were shuttered in June after the Sunnyvale company apparently was feeling the heat from blue-chip advertisers PepsiCo, Georgia-Pacific and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance.

"This is part of a broader initiative that Yahoo has been undertaking, including the suspension of creating user rooms in Yahoo Chat," Yahoo Spokeswoman Mary Osako said in a statement . "These efforts are consistent with and build upon our long-standing commitment to providing a safer and more secure online experience for consumers."

New York and Nebraska both launched investigations earlier this year after they received tips that children had unfettered access to adult chat rooms.

If the company does decide to allow user-created chat rooms again, it says it will now screen all the names and will remove any deemed offensive within 24 hours, according to Spitzer's office.

It will also make it easier to report and follow up "inappropriate" behavior in chat rooms and will alert users that their IP addresses are being logged.

The Attorneys General of the two states said that an investigator posing as a 14-year-old girl "received 35 personal messages of a sexual nature" in just 25 minutes.