Yahoo shuts chat rooms after report of sex predators

June 23, 2005
Globe and Mail (AP)

San Francisco — Reacting to angry protests from several of its top sponsors, Yahoo Inc. has pulled the plug on perhaps hundreds of chat rooms operating on its site after a news report revealed some of the rooms were used to promote sex with minors.

Companies such as PepsiCo Inc., State Farm Insurance and Georgia-Pacific Corp. stopped advertising on Yahoo after they were informed adults were attempting to lure children into sexual encounters within some of Yahoo's user-created chat rooms, said a report by KPRC-TV in Houston, Tex.

KPRC reported in some cases, men were using Web cameras to send lewd pictures to minors in chat rooms with such titles as Younger Girls 4 Older Guys and Girls 13 And Under for Older Guys.

Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako, who declined to say when the service will return or why all the user-created sites were closed, said the Internet portal shuttered the service for improvements and to ensure “compliance w= ith our terms of service.”

Yahoo requires users to agree not to “harm minors in any way” or make available any content that is “unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, tortious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous ... or otherwise objectionable.”

While Yahoo may be cracking down on violators of its terms, others, who presumably were adhering to the terms, have been barred from their chat rooms, as well.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo hosts chat rooms the company created and thos= e founded by users. Yahoo-created chat rooms remain operational.

How long the chat rooms that allegedly promoted sex with minors have operated is unclear. Yahoo does not monitor the content in the chat rooms but will close a room if it receives complaints, Ms. Osako said.

“We encourage users to notify us when they believe content is in violatio= n of our terms of service,” Ms. Osako said.