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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September, 2003, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
MSN chatroom closures: Your views

Microsoft has announced it plans to close all unregulated chatrooms on its global sites.

The company said that it was taking this action in a bid to protect users from unsolicited information such as spam.

It was also a necessary step to safeguard children as online chat services were being increasingly misused.

What do you think of MSN's move? Should other chat providers take similar action? Are the days of unregulated chatrooms over?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

This topic was suggested by Roger, England
Is Microsoft right to close down its chatrooms?

Surely it is better chat rooms are run by companies such as Microsoft, which would regulate their usage, rather then un-moderated services where you do not know who is running them.
Steve, UK

Having been active in the arrest of a paedophile using an MSN chatroom to collect pictures of underage girls, I am all for MSN closing chat down. This man was posing as a woman in a chatroom and had over 500 images that were seized and his is awaiting trial. Good for MSN on this one.
Val, USA

It should be the parents' responsibility, not MSN's. As a chat host and participant I have tried my best to control misuse of my chat rooms as have most of the friends I chat with. I truly believe that MSN is doing this for financial reasons. I for one will not be forced into paying to use a chat room.
Kay, USA

Perhaps Microsoft can convince the public that that the only reason for ending their free chat room service was child safety by levying a 1 cent charge for its paid service? The real and more serious issue is growing need for proper identification on the Internet. Perhaps now is the time for state issue voluntary electronic "ID" cards. Electronic IDs do not need to limit anonymity but can supplement it in situations where greater accountability is needed.
Paul M, Ireland

I think that closing down the US MSN chat site is pointless as the kids are just going go to the USA site and use that instead.
Jon, UK

As an adult. I think it is long over due. I personally stopped using the chat rooms because of all the perverted ads I kept receiving. If it is cleaned up, I may return.
Mark Holloway, United States

This is a step in the right direction, but I would also like assurance that Microsoft will attempt to cut spam on its Hotmail e-mail service, which members receive in huge amounts, and these emails often contain porn.
Aleksandar Lukic, England

I meet lots of new friends in the chatrooms so please don't close them down.
Trey, USA

All I can say is that people must be hard up if they have to resort to chatrooms to find friendship. I have looked at a news chat room and some of the comments can only come from really low life sources. Best to be avoided. Close them down!
Rob, GB

Another example of the fear everyone campaign. Parents need to take responsibility for their children on the net. I know where my kids are when they're out of my house, I also know where they are when they are on the internet. You teach your kids to cross the road, why not teach them to use the internet safely? If you can't, find someone who can. This ban by MS punishes the vast majority, with no real guarantee of significantly affecting the minority it's aimed at.
Alistair, UK

I do not support the change
Mikey, USA
I am an MSN host and can say that as a host I do my best to make sure to regulate the advertising of spam, by kicking off the server. I do believe that by msn going paid will lose lots of users and that users will move to other free chat areas such as yahoo, where things like this can still happen to children. I do not support the change mainly because I am a cable subscriber and do not want to go back to dial up or broadband. I do hope that this can be moderated somehow. But as a host and chatter of msn I will do my best to continue to use msn chat service.
Mikey, USA

Lets get real - there were paedophiles before the Internet and there will be paedophiles after the Internet. If you want to fix this problem lets get tough with sending them down.
Dominic Colson, England

How noble of MSN to close chat rooms to protect children. In my opinion the decision is purely financial. People just move elsewhere when a site closes down, it has happened before - it will happen again.
W McCullough, UK

How sad that it has come to this! To protect our children? Isn't that the responsibility of the parents, not MSN?? They should look into spam in hotmail! It's too crazy for words, I receive the most disgusting emails!
Sharron, The Netherlands

MSN is closing down its chat rooms to protect itself from litigation and brand damage caused by that one paedophile who uses MSN as his platform of choice to access young people. MSN has shown courage in doing this in that it could lose a large volume of traffic to its sites.
Jonathan, UK

I fail to see why they have to close the chat rooms. Parents that allow there children to use the internet, like I do, should invest in this new MSN8 and set up the parental controls. It is the parents responsibility to encourage there children to be safe. Blaming adults for everything that goes wrong is unfair. As someone else has already said, closing down chat will not eradicate the problem.
Thomas Gaine, UK

How can the USA rooms stay open? Are there no perverts in the USA? MSN are forcing children into the unmanned chat rooms. This is terrible way to deal with the problem, they are shifting the blame to avoid future possible legal action. This has stripped many unfortunates, like the disabled, of a means of communication.
Julie Eldred, United Kingdom

Microsoft's decision to close down all of its MSN internet chatrooms in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and most of Asia is unfortunate. The threat posed to children by online paedophiles has been wildly exaggerated. Internet chatrooms bear no more blame for the activities of those who use them than the telephone network does for the actions of people who have telephone conversations. Microsoft is legitimising panic, stigmatising internet communication, and obscuring the fact that it is the responsibility of parents, and parents alone, to supervise the activities of their children - whether online or off.
Sandy Starr, United Kingdom

Sounds like a good idea to me. Perhaps people should get out more and chat to real people rather than a faceless entity. It's a sunny day. Go outside!
Marc, UK

It is nice to just have someone to talk to outside your normal life
Sameed Quasem, Bangladesh
The decision by Microsoft to close down their chatrooms is outrageous. I am 16 years old and I have had the pleasure of meeting several great people via-msn chatrooms. I have made friends all over the world and if for no other reason, it is nice to just have someone to talk to outside your normal life. If safety of children is an issue, it is the job of parents and administrators to educate children about the hazards of internet chatting. Those who are smart enough will know what is right and wrong.
Sameed Quasem, Bangladesh

Anyone who has seen Bowling For Columbine will know that the US media routinely employ FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) to boost ratings, attract advertisers and keep the public away from talking about the real issues. So the US population is a quivering mass of paranoia and fear, which nicely feeds the desire to sue someone to make you feel better and less responsible for you own actions. Mark Bowen from Wales is right, children are not anymore at risk now than they were 100 years ago, the vast majority of abuse is committed be people well known to the victims. Microsoft's motivation can only be financial.
Leigh, USA (UK orig)

Despite what some people may believe, the world of 'internet chat' does not revolve around Microsoft. I seriously doubt the impact of this will be more than a minor ripple or change the nature of the net; Adapt and move on.
David Howells, Wales

I think Microsoft's rivals will be celebrating on the news that there is one less competition to worry about. If the decision Microsoft took was multi-lateral then it would have had an impact but I don't see others following suit.
Simon Okema, UK

As well as the chat rooms can the "authorities" look at spam email as well. As a family we get over 50 spams a day some containing porn
St.John Hankins, UK

This is a pathetic over-reaction of witch hunt proportions
Alun, England
This is a pathetic over-reaction of witch hunt proportions. The fact is that chatrooms are not a danger to anyone because there is no physical contact with anyone at all. Staying over at a friend's house, or having someone baby-sit your child are massively riskier. The fact is that nobody can be harmed on a chat room so long as you keep personal information undisclosed, and either don't meet at all or meet safely. So education is all that is required, not this crazy stunt to deal with a miniscule problem. Maybe we should ban cars instead. After all, they do kill children with alarming regularity. Or maybe we should end child poverty. Wouldn't that be a better way to make the lives of kids better? This is just ridiculous. Can everyone please grow up?
Alun, England

About time, chat rooms are unpleasant places where its easy for paedophiles to contact children, hopefully Yahoo will also follow suit. My opinion is ALL chat rooms should be removed from the Internet or carefully monitored. Well done Microsoft!
Ian, UK

Enough of the back slapping and well done Microsoft! This is not an altruistic approach by them, they are merely pre-empting and thus avoiding the flack that may come in the form of legal proceedings against them for not safeguarding the use of their chatrooms. Money is their motive not morality!
Debbie F, UK

What next. Let's get rid of Playgrounds, Mobile Phones, Personal Ads, Shopping Malls, Swimming Pools, Boy Scouts, Youth Clubs. Grow up Microsoft. The fact is that Chat is non profit making and potentially litigious. Call it for what it is. Don't veil it as some altruistic gesture. Chat control is the sole responsibility of the parents.
Archie, Inverclyde, Scotland

New technologies always inspire fear
Mark Bowen, Wales, UK
This is nothing new. New technologies always inspire fear. When doing some research once I read an article in a magazine from around 1890 talking about how young ladies should not be allowed to use the telephone for more than a few minutes at a time due to fear that they weren't mentally strong enough to cope with the sensation of talking to a disembodied voice for very long.

In my lifetime I seen fear of video cassette recorders (remember how "video nasties" were going to corrupt a whole generation of children?) and similar fear of video games, and now all this stuff related to the internet. The really stupid thing about all this from my point of view is how the press in the UK has caused the general public to believe that paedophilia (that is, adults that find pre-pubescent children sexually attractive) is common, when in reality it is very rare and probably no more so today than it was fifty or 100 years ago. This has caused, for instance, parents to be afraid to let their children go out to play outside. This is a real shame.
Mark Bowen, Wales, UK

Anything that helps towards preventing the abuse of children should be welcomed. I have made personal friends from chat rooms but can honestly say I can live without using them. We are not talking about a "couple of cases" where children have come close to or have been abused from people that pose as other children. Those that really feel a need to go onto chat rooms will not object to credit card subscriptions. A good move for a global problem.
Russ Higgins, Uk

Having read the comments already placed on here - I would like to say that a lot of people seem to be blaming the technology for the problems and potential dangers of the internet. The Internet itself poses no dangers to anybody. It is the other users that are the problem. Shutting chat rooms will not stop the danger, the only way to protect children is to educate them, and their parents/guardians/carers in how to use the Internet safely.
Helen, UK

To be honest children shouldn't be allowed to go on to the information super highway without parental supervision. After all there is no water shed. I think that in today's society netizens should be free to choose where they chat, if it isn't on msn then it will be somewhere else. Mr Gates has done us all a favour and got rid of a useless domain. Nice one Bill.
Matthew J Beckett, England

It's not possible to regulate every chatroom in existence. Chatrooms that get 'closed' on one provider will simply move to another, and eventually some enterprising individuals will set up their own servers. And frankly, if you're using a prominent chatroom server, you're just ASKING for trouble anyway.
KeV Beeley, UK

This extreme policy seems like an exercise in futility. The recent demonisation of Internet chatrooms hasn't helped either. I fear that those in favour of such draconian acts of mass-censorship have little understanding of the Internet. A sad day but unregulated chat will always be available somewhere.
Adam Issa, UK

Of course this is not a "death knell" for "unregulated chatrooms". There are thousands of IRC services out there, with hundreds of thousands of users. Just because Microsoft have made a decision on how they run their own services doesn't mean that chatrooms' days are numbered - in fact, it is incredibly naive to think that they have any impact. Sure, some services might emulate this move, but the majority of chatters on the net are enjoying "unregulated chat" without problems, and will continue to do so.
Chris Hoult, UK

Best move ever, that will get the kids off their Windows addiction
Frank Kalf, Holland

Best move ever, that will get the kids off their Windows addiction, and make them familiar with other operating systems like OS/2 , Linux and BEOS which operate ICQ
Frank Kalf, Holland

A marvellous move to safeguard young people from potential threats such as paedophiles. However, this could be the beginning of censorship and policing on the net, which I feel would take away the nature of the internet.
Graham Oliver, United Kingdom

Chatrooms are a great means of exchanging opinions, knowledge and things that would advance human understanding. It's a pity they have become the vehicle of sick and broken minds, thus excluding "normal" people.
John Pope, UK

Bill Gates does it again - not satisfied with choking the competition, he now clamps down on free speech. The web has revolutionized the way we communicate, because of its unregulated nature, not in spite of it. Other chat providers should definitely not follow suit.
Rick, Philippines

This might make the internet marginally safer for children in the short term but I somehow doubt this is the end for online chat. With facilities such as IRC (Internet Relay Chat) just about anyone can set up an unregulated chatroom and even more people can access it. The internet is all about free speech, it's unfortunate what some people use that for but freedom of speech can't be stifled, only accommodated.
James Bowe, England

MS Nanny? The openness of the Internet is slowly but surely being eroded. If censorship of this nature continues, the medium will become worthless.
Peter Harris, United Kingdom

"Safeguarding children" is the emotional bullet which will kill freedom of expression
Henry, United States
Why do millions of adults using chatrooms legitimately have to suffer just because some parents are too lazy and irresponsible to supervise their child's access to the Internet?
Paul G, Yorkshire, UK

About time! Now will the other companies follow suit? Removing all of the live chatrooms will go a long way to making the Internet a safer place.
Neil Small, Scotland

This is just another ridiculous attempt to limit free speech. "Safeguarding children" is the emotional bullet which will kill freedom of expression and ultimately take away our rights for good.
Henry, United States

Should chatrooms be closed down?
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

MSN shuts down its chatrooms
24 Sep 03  |  Technology

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