Yahoo Shutters User Chat Rooms

Responding to a flurry of bad press and advertisers pulling their marketing buys, Yahoo has completely shut down its unmonitored user-created chat rooms, which reportedly were being used to promote sex with minors. The company did not say how long the chats would be closed, but will leave open company-created rooms.

It's not a secret that some of the largest Internet destinations, while catering to children, have long been profiting off adult-oriented chat rooms. AOL found early success thanks to its sex chats and Yahoo draws millions of users each day to its chat rooms.

The subject, while taboo, was an accepted facet of human nature and the freedom of the worldwide Web.

But last week, a report by KPRC-TV in Houston has highlighted the fact that some rooms were actually being used for illegal purposes. Adults were purportedly using Web cameras to send indecent pictures to children and lure minors into sexual encounters.

In response, advertisers have opened their eyes to where their brand was being promoted. PepsiCo, State Farm Insurance and Georgia-Pacific Corp. all pulled their advertising from Yahoo, and other companies threatened to follow suit.

Yahoo says it will keep the service shuttered while it makes improvements to ensure chatters are following guidelines. But without strict monitoring by Yahoo employees -- an expensive endeavor for a company with such a large audience -- enforcement may be an uphill battle.

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