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MSN to shut down its chat rooms

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  • MSN to shut down its chat rooms

    Interesting story. I agree totally that Children's and Young People's safety on the internet is extremely important and should be supervised by a parent/adult wherever appropriate. Adults who prey on Children through the internet and "groom" them are very dangerous individuals indeed.

    It does make me wonder though if M$oft have other things on the agenda too, like the worry of being sued for millions over situations where they have provided chat room access, or perhaps the sheer cost of what it must be to provide free chat rooms online?

    MSN shuts down its chatrooms

    Microsoft's internet service MSN has taken a major step in net safety which could sound the death knell for unsupervised chatrooms.

    MSN are closing all their chatrooms in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and most of Asia from 14 October, and changing how others are operated globally.

    "As a responsible leader we feel it necessary to make these changes because online chat services are increasingly being misused," they said.

    Children's charities welcomed the move as "momentous" and see it as a big step towards protecting young web users.

    Abusive contact

    MSN UK's Matt Whittingham told BBC News Online it was not a decision they had taken lightly.

    "We have been concerned about chatrooms for a while and reached a stage where we were no longer prepared to put up with inappropriate communication," he said.

    • US: Unmoderated chatrooms will be credit card subscription only and bundled with other products

    • Canada, Australia, Japan: 24-hour moderated chatrooms, with some unmoderated behind subscription

    • New Zealand and Brazil: 24-hour moderated chatrooms

    • UK and Europe: All chatrooms closing

    • Middle East, Latin America, Asia: All chatrooms closing

    The only chat service available to MSN users in the UK will be the free instant messaging service, MSN Messenger, which is not so open and gives people more control over who they talk to.

    Chatrooms on MSN's other global sites will either be supervised - or moderated - by an adult 24 hours a day, or will be on a credit card subscription-basis only.

    It means no free, unmoderated chatrooms will exist anymore on any of MSN's global network of sites.

    There has been growing concern among experts that the anonymity of net chat means young people and children are being targeted by adults disguising themselves as children.

    "We have seen cases where under-16s have been approached by people pretending to be same age, but who are grown adults trying to solicit young people for abusive contact," Mr Whittingham explained.

    He added although most messages in chatrooms were not inappropriate, a "small minority" had spoilt chat for people of all ages.

    People have also been increasingly targeted by spammers posting hundreds of messages and inappropriate web addresses to chatrooms.

    Many have been "mining" rooms for data, finding out users' e-mail addresses to build spam lists.

    Instant control?

    MSN has admitted some chatters may not be happy about the move.

    "We regret responsible users will be affected by this move, but we looked at this very carefully and on balance to safeguard customer interests," said Mr Whittingham.

    • One in five children aged nine to 16 regularly use chatrooms

    • More than half have engaged in sex chat

    • A quarter have received requests to meet face-to-face

    • One in 10 had met face-to-face

    Source: Cyberspace Research Centre, July 2003*

    By only making instant messaging available, chatters will be to restrict and control who they talk to because they can only chat to people on their "buddy lists".

    People need to ask permission to be a "buddy" and they need to know the user's e-mail address to make a request, which usually means most children only have "buddies" who they know outside the internet.

    They will also continue to make MSN Messenger free to users.

    Mr Whittingham said all net services offering chatrooms should continue to look at how they can safeguard everyone on the internet, ensuring young people and parents stick to common sense advice.

    Young people should never give out personal information online and never arrange to meet someone you met online, in the real world.


  • #2
    I agree Matthew, there's more to this than meets the eye.

    I've heard that some terrorists make use of chatrooms, maybe that's a consideration.

    Bottom line? I think it's all about money, saving it and making it. I hope Yahoo don't go the same way but I think they probably will.

    "Almost anything you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. You must be the change that you wish to see in the world." Gandhi


    • #3


      The first thing I thought of when I heard this news today was exactly what you are suggesting - they are worried about being sued!

      It's only a matter of time before that happens and MSN are well aware of that!

      Mind you, if it does help to stop this evil problem or at least force others to tighten up their chatroom security, then good for MSN...



      • #4
        I saw a good news story about it on newsround tonight (was waiting for neighbours!!)

        they were telling kids how to try and tell genuine on line friends from false ones.

        about ask if their parents could talk to you on line and stuff like that

        its sad that we cant feel our kids are safe even just talking to parents never had these concerns when we all had pen friends (showing my age now!!).....before the days of emails

        parents need to have more control over computor use and kids need to be taught more life skills and how to stay safe.

        I heard a youth worker saying on tv last week "its good that kids have powers but as adults we need to take some control back"

        couldnt agree more


        • #5
          Am I being cynical? I suspect that this has more to do with money rather than morals and the safety of children.

          At present MSN chatrooms are probably the best-used chatrooms in the world. That must take up a substantial amount of the MSN resources in both technical and personnel resources.

          Close all free chatrooms, thus you reduce the server requirements and save on staff time, too.

          But isn't Bill Gates one of the richest men in the world. Yes, he is. And you don't get rich by giving your money away...


          • #6
            The PM service will go to, from what I can make out. Chatrooms will (in MSN terms) be largely restricted to Credit Card chatrooms in the USA.


            • #7
              its sad that we cant feel our kids are safe even just talking to parents never had these concerns when we all had pen friends (showing my age now!!).....before the days of emails

              Beth - making me feel my age too. Those were the days!


              • #8
                Don't know about msn chatrooms, but have had a lot of grief with another large international company's chat rooms. Made numerous complaints to them about complete lack of moderation and abusive and inflammatory behaviour, to get absolutely NOWHERE. Eventually, left in disgust. If they're not going to be moderated, that is what they can become, as well as the grooming and sleaze that can go on.

                Dunno if this means that all that will just go more underground though, so I'm not sure what I think about it. Perhaps, they could just spend some money/thought on making them safer/unabusive places to be? But, doesn't sound like they can be bothered to spend the money, as others have said.



                • #9
                  Chat rooms suffer from the anonymity given to the people on there. Basically you can go on the system, swear, make racist comments etc without any consiquences. Many rooms degenerate into insults and mindless spamming.

                  In terms of safety for kids, they are only unsafe if they give out personal details to people they don't know. Parents should teach kids never to do this both in the real world and on the internet. The cases of children being harmed by talking to someone on the internet are so rare as to be negligible. However, they recieve a disproportionate coverage in the media. A child is more likely to be run over crossing the road (but we don't see these accidents as front page news everytime one happens - mores the pity, if they were the government would be passing legislation to try to solve road deaths). The media would like us to think that there are hundreds of thousands of adults waiting outside to abduct children and that no-where is safe - this simply isn't true.

                  Parents should use common sense when bringing up their children. Child abductions are no more prevelent today than they were 50 years ago, but the percieved risk has increased to hysterical proportions.

                  Personally I think MSN is shutting down the chat rooms to save money.

                  Howard:"You wanna be careful, before you know it you'll wake up in a bush singing songs about brooms"

                  Vince:"You don't know anything about me. Do you know anything about me?"

                  Howard:"I know...of you"

                  Vince:"Yeah, well, if you knew me you'd know that I don't sing songs about brooms...I sing songs about love...

                  Lovely lady with the eye

                  Lovely lady with the eye

                  You've only got one but it's a good one

                  Lovely lady with the eye, the eye, the eye, the eye, the eye

                  coming forward on a string, thats not normal, urgh

                  Yeah! I'm in a band..."


                  • #10
                    Of course they're simply shutting down to save money, they can't compete at microsofts preffered level (ie standing on top stamping the rest into the ground) so they're spitting out their dummy - "If we can't win, we won't play".

                    Microsoft ditched my favourite chat service years ago - MS Comic Chat - the one where the gui client had little cartoon characters appearing in semi-animated comic strip style, it was brilliant...

                    End of the day there are a myriad of chat clients, BBS systems everywhere, email, newsgroups etc etc etc and MS can't dominate when there is so many to choose from.


                    • #11
                      It's all very well telling kids to keep out of chat rooms for fear of paedophiles but what kind of a society are we when we dish out contraceptives to kids as young as 12? What kind of message are we sending out?

                      I'd hate to be a kid in today's world, it must be so confusing for them. One one hand they're virtually told they can have sex as long as it's safe and on the other hand we're screaming about paedophiles grooming them in chat rooms.

                      I just thank God that I didn't have a computer when my kids were kids! I've been in chatrooms where everything seemed fine but then somebody has come in and the whole thing degenerates into foul mouthed abuse. Sad to say, a lot of it comes from youngsters who think it's 'cool' to be vile!

                      I don't go into them much any more, occasionally I go into Yahoo politics chat but even that can turn into racist and sexist abuse. However I have made some good friends in chat and we've eventually formed a group which meets three times a week online and once a year offline. So it's not all bad. It would be a pity to see them all shut down because some people are incapable of behaving themselves.

                      Maybe if all computers were sold with software so parents could block chat programmes, kids would be less likely to be in them.

                      "Almost anything you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it. You must be the change that you wish to see in the world." Gandhi


                      • #12
                        I hardly ever use a chat room but I have used newsgroups on topics that interest me and both seem to suffer from this growing level of misuse by unpleasant or downright evil individuals. On top of that is the ever increasing problem of spam e-mail and the spread of viruses. What troubles me about this is that the internet is a truly amazing development giving us freedoms and access to information and advice [this forum for example] we couldn't have dreamed of a few years ago.

                        A relatively small number of individuals is risking the future of this medium. I read recently that something like 65% of all e-mail traffic is spam. This clearly damages the performance of the system. I hope the internet and its users will mature with time (naive is suspect)