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.

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