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Yahoo U.K. restricts access to U.S. adult chat

Industry Standard
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(IDG) -- The U.K. division of the Web portal company Yahoo has updated its instant-messaging chat service software to disallow access to adult Yahoo chat rooms, or Yahoo Clubs as they are called, that are located in the U.S.

"It's not 'blocking' access per say. Users can still obviously access U.S. chat through Yahoo's U.S. chat site. As part of our general push to localize content, we are also attacking the problem of undesirable content globally. It's part of our constant evaluation of our service," said Sue Jackson, a spokeswoman for Yahoo UK.

The change, which still allows Yahoo U.K. & Ireland users to access adult chat rooms that are based in the U.K. and Ireland, occurred "within the last month," Jackson said.

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The move comes amid much discussion and publicity over the child pornography ring, the Wonderland Club, which British police have called the world's largest organized Internet child pornography ring. Last month, seven U.K. club members were convicted of downloading and exchanging hundreds of thousands of pornographic images of children over the Internet. On Tuesday, the convicted pedophiles were sentenced to jail terms of between 12 and 30 months.

Yahoo U.K. & Ireland has been working closely with children's charities and Internet watchdog groups such as ChildNet and the Internet Watch Foundation on ways to improve child safety and made the decision to block access to non-U.K. adult chat rooms after consultations with the various groups, Jackson said. "We are keeping them informed, and we talk regularly," Jackson said.

Furthermore, Yahoo U.K. & Ireland is "looking to introduce new technologies to limit objectionable content. It is a matter of strengthening compliance with our terms of services," Jackson said. The company also plans to appoint a "social policy specialist" charged with reviewing the safety of its IM chat services and will in future encourage its users to report any potentially illegal activity, Jackson said.

Last month, Yahoo Inc. banned all Nazi memorabilia and paraphernalia from hate groups from its auction site, a situation which according to Jackson is in no way related to Yahoo U.K. & Ireland's decision to limit access to content on various Yahoo Clubs.

"That is an entirely different type of issue. That is a case where all of France is banned from certain information. Our goal is part of our policy for our sites to only reflect local content and local service," Jackson said.



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