Meteor has suspended its SMS chat service in order to implement age verification technology that will prevent it from being accessed by users under 18 years old.
The mobile phone operator’s text chat line previously had no age requirement and the company has decided to temporarily shut down the service while it these new procedures are put in place.
The service will be offline for a couple of months, the company said. All previous users of the service – a few thousand, according to Meteor – have been notified of the change.
Director of regulatory and corporate affairs Andrew Kelly said the move was in response to “growing concern in society that these sorts of services should be for over 18s only”. He added that there had been no complaints or problems with the service until now. “We haven’t taken action because of any issue with the service,” he told siliconrepublic.com.
Meteor had already taken its decision to suspend the SMS chat service prior to a meeting earlier this week between the Irish mobile operators and the chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Noel O’Flynn TD. The meeting had been called following concerns about underage users accessing unsuitable or inappropriate content over mobile phones.
Discussions at that meeting centred on registering mobile phones and filtering adult content. Kelly said that Meteor’s position on adult services was clear: “We don’t, as a network, offer adult services and we won’t in future.”
However problems still exist around filtering content that doesn’t originate from an adult service, Kelly pointed out. There is no system to check the content of an image sent direct;y between camera phones, for example. “Technology to do that is not on the market at the moment. If it existed, we would have it in place,” Kelly said.
Several firms are working on possible solutions to this problem and Irish mobile operators are evaluating options, but the technology is still in development stages.
By Gordon Smith