Agreement Removes And Bars Predators’ Chat Rooms

New York Attorney General Spitzer and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning today announced an agreement that will help prevent children from getting involved in dangerous chat room activities over the internet.

Under the agreement, one of the nation's leading internet service providers, Yahoo!, has removed and barred the posting of user-created chat rooms with names that promoted sex between minors and adults.

The agreement is the first to institute system-wide controls over categories of chat rooms that are likely to be frequented by child predators.

"We need to be vigilant to protect our children," Spitzer said. "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."

Attorney General Bruning said: "Millions of people use the internet every day, and many of those are children. Because of this agreement Yahoo! chat rooms are a safer place today than ever before, meaning our children are safer online and predators have fewer opportunities to prey on them."

New York and Nebraska both commenced investigations earlier this year after they received tips that children had unfettered access to adult chat rooms. Pursuant to ongoing discussions with the Attorneys General, Yahoo! in June removed or barred the posting of approximately 70,000 user-created chat rooms whose names suggested they facilitated illegal conduct, including promoting sex between adults and minors.

Among the illicit chat rooms removed were those with labels such as "girls13 & up for much older men," "8-12 yo girls for older men," and "Teen girls for older fat men." Many of these were located within the "Schools and Education" and "Teen" chat categories.

Within these rooms, an investigator found numerous instances of the solicitation of minors for sexual acts. Over one single 25-minute span, for instance, the investigator, posing as a 14-year-old girl, received 35 personal messages of a sexual nature, whose source appeared to be adult chat room participants. Such communications can sometimes lead to meetings between vulnerable adolescents and those adults.

The agreement institutes the following measures:

  • 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.

Spitzer and Bruning commended Yahoo! for its cooperation and recognition of the problems arising in its chat rooms.

The matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Karen Geduldig of Spitzer's Internet Bureau, and Investigator Casey Quinlan, under the direction of Ken Dreifach, Chief of the Internet Bureau.


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