Microsoft to close chatrooms over spam, paedophile fears


24 Sep 2003

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Microsoft has revealed that it will shut down its MSN Chat service on the internet in 28 countries on 14 October over fears that the chatrooms have become a haven for paedophiles and email spam merchants.

“This change is intended to help protect MSN users from unsolicited information such as spam and to better protect children from inappropriate communication online,” the software giant told MSN users.

“The increase in abuse of the Internet, such as the massive growth of spam and the increase in unsolicited and inappropriate material, particularly with regards to children, has led us to this decision,” Microsoft said.

From 14 October Microsoft will begin shutting its internet forums in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Africa. However, in the US, Canada and Japan, Microsoft will continue to provide unsupervised services, but only to subscribers they consider accountable because their addresses and billing records are kept by the company.

The major change comes at a time when unsolicited email, otherwise known as spam, is said to account for almost one third of the email traffic in the world. The move will force millions of internet users to go elsewhere to chat. The decision has prompted a fierce debate amongst freedom of speech advocates and child protection groups about the correct way to police the web. There are fears that the move could force the darker elements of the web underground. However, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children welcomed Microsoft’s initiative.

It is understood that Microsoft is intends to license its messenger service, including plans to align it more closely with its corporate services.

By John Kennedy