Yahoo chat rooms are being closed to anyone under 18. That’s an announcement made today under an agreement between Yahoo and the New York State attorney general’s office.
According to a statement by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, “Yahoo has removed and barred user-created chat rooms with names like â€œTeen Girls for Older Fat Men”…, adding that the rooms encourage inappropriate activities.
Both the state of New York and the state of Nebraska started investigations earlier this year after reports of children having unrestricted access to adult chat rooms, making children easy prey for adults of a certain persuasion. Mr. Spitzer’s office told of an investigator who posed as a 14-year old girl in the Yahoo Chat area, and received 35 sexually explicit messages within 25 minutes.
According to a Yahoo spokesperson, “Yahoo is taking further steps to enhance user safety by restricting Yahoo Chat to users 18 and older and removing the Teen category. Yahoo will continue to strongly support law enforcement in their work, as well as continue to provide support for several nonprofit organizations committed to online safety.”
In addition, the agreement provides that:
“Should Yahoo! reinstate such user-created chat rooms, it must pre-screen all user- created chat room names, so that any chat room name encouraging sex acts between adults and minors will not be posted;
In the event Yahoo! becomes aware of any such chat room, despite these controls, it must purge the room from its site within 24 hours;
Yahoo! will make it easier to report any threats to child safety, give priority to such complaints, and designate specific employees to do so;
Yahoo! will develop education materials and feature them on the Yahoo! network, promoting the safe use of chat rooms;
Yahoo! will donate $175,000 to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s New York affiliates, and provide banner advertising to that organization targeted to teens.”
Explained Attorney General Spitzer, “We need to be vigilant to protect our children. 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.”
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