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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Internet users debate MSN's closure
As Microsoft announces the imminent closure of its UK internet chatrooms, online bulletin boards have been humming with views on the news.

"We're living in a 'blame someone else society'," writes Mids, the online pseudonym of a user on one of Microsoft's message boards.

According to him (or her), this is at the root of Microsoft UK's decision to close down its chat rooms.

This view is carried on an MSN discussion group site, amid a discussion entitled "MSN shuts down chatrooms to protect children".

There is a lot of blaming going on. Watchman, who kicked off the discussion late on Tuesday evening, took a swipe at the "what about the childruuuun?" brigade, who argue that chatroom sites are dominated by paedophiles preying on unsuspecting children.

Kog was more forthright:

"Blame the filthy scum paedophiles, they are the ones abusing children - but they are abusing the general public now."

Bloss believes there is more to it.

"It's a money saving ploy dressed up as child protection".

Watchman came back with a attack on Carol Vorderman, who has led a campaign for "safe surfing" of the net.

And just for good measure, IanMac, jabbed an accusatory finger at companies that provide lists of e-mail accounts to spammers, although this was getting off the point slightly.

Clearly, Microsoft has roused strong passions among the online community.

Unlike MSN's chatrooms, which Microsoft is planning to close on 14 October, it seems the "Groups" element, on which these messages were posted, will continue to run.

The main difference between the two is that while chatrooms offer instantaneous online discussions, "Groups" is the online equivalent of talk radio, offering screened bulletin boards.

Before a viewpoint is posted live onto MSN's site, it must first pass muster with a professional moderator. Anything suspect is removed.

Child on computer
Parents fear their children are unsafe while using chat sites
The "chatrooms" discussion is one of many lively debates simmering on MSN Groups on Wednesday morning, touching on subjects such as "America's quest for global dominance" and John Pilger's "Leftist propaganda show".

One of the most popular is "Lock up your cats" - a posting which highlighted fears in Australia that domestic cats were slaughtering native wildlife.

Inevitably, perhaps, the "closing down chatrooms" group drew a reaction from Microsoft's many eager baiters. After all, the company, perhaps more than any other technology firm, is widely distrusted by ardent internet users.

BV1 offered the following view:

"It's a quick and easy way of grabbing the headlines and scoring a few PR points. Perhaps the retail side of MS is starting to feel the pinch brought on by years of overcharging for its software, whilst forcing users to upgrade every 5 minutes."

Another user, Sweet_soul, forecast dire consequences.

"Yes now kids will panic, and give their personal details like phone number, and even their home addresses, to their contacts and friends online... so the pervs will win again, they will just say... i don't want to lose contact with you... give me your home address or something like that."

Meanwhile, on MSN's Message Boards, a user called on others to "sign this thread to campaign and keep chat open".

But after nearly five hours, only 10 others had done so.


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