Confusion over Yahoo!'s pledge to block paedophiles

Yahoo! offers no feedback on paedophile alert two weeks after warning
Written by Wendy McAuliffe, Contributor

Two weeks after ZDNet News UK handed over ID information on suspected paedophiles believed to be abusing the Yahoo! Messenger (IM) service, the Internet portal is still unable to confirm whether it has blocked the offending accounts.

ZDNet News provided Yahoo! UK with the IDs of ten customers found to be engaging in paedophile conversations in its instant messenger chatrooms two weeks ago. Full transcripts of sexually explicit conversations were also given as evidence, on the understanding that Yahoo!'s legal department would immediately block these customers from its service.

ZDNet was reassured that it would receive feedback on any action taken against the chatroom abusers unearthed in its investigation, but is still awaiting a progress report from Yahoo!. The only response has been an automated email reply reading: "Thank you for reporting this to Yahoo! customer care. We're glad you let us know about this, and we'll be sure to take care of it."

Yahoo! claims to follow a reactive "notice and take down" policy, where paedophilic user-created chatrooms are removed when the company is alerted to them. Despite the recent broadcast of ITN's Tonight with Trevor MacDonald exposing paedophile activity present in Yahoo! chatrooms, its Messenger chat service still remains unmonitored.

While the Home Office is calling for PC manufacturers to market child-friendly PCs installed with pre-loaded software filters, Yahoo! is offering customers free software to break through firewalls that interfere with Messenger chat. The troubleshooting section of the site states: "Messenger can be configured to get through most firewalls and proxies without too much trouble. If you are connecting to the Internet through work or school, a firewall or proxy is almost certainly the cause of your connection problem."

Yahoo!s UK managing director Martina King is still refusing to comment on the issues raised in ZDNet's Chatroom Danger special report.

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