Exclusive: Yahoo! UK recruits paedophile 'inspector'

Home Office gaffe reveals new Yahoo! inspector
Written by Wendy McAuliffe, Contributor

Internet portal Yahoo! UK has finally recruited an "inspector" charged with responsibility for dealing with paedophile content polluting its chatrooms, four months after the UK managing director confirmed she would personally oversee the appointment.

Annie Mullins, senior policy officer for British children's charity NCH Action for Children, will begin work at Yahoo! in May. As the first content inspector ever to be recruited by the portal, her job will be to deal with the unacceptable use of chatrooms by paedophiles to lure children into offline sexual meetings.

"Yahoo! is stuffed to the brim with techies -- it doesn't need anyone with a technical background," said John Carr, Internet consultant at NCH Action for Children. "Annie comes 100 percent from a child protection and welfare background."

In November, King was adamant that the inspector would not work as a moderator -- moderators usually oversee all conversations and deal with swearing, racism and abuse -- but would be specially trained to deal only with content of a paedophile nature. "My understanding is that Annie is initially going to give the whole setup at Yahoo! a once-over, and see what procedures need to be put in place," said Carr.

The Home Office unwittingly revealed Mullins' appointment in a press release announcing the creation of an Internet taskforce last Wednesday, set up to oversee the implementation of recommendations made in the Internet Crime Forum report Chat Wise, Street Wise.

Despite personal reassurance from King in November that ZDNet would be informed on any progress made in finding a suitable person for the role, the company is refusing to discuss the appointment. "It's our prerogative to say whether or not we are going to make this announcement -- I don't have any comment," said King.

An investigation by ZDNet News into Yahoo! Messenger chatrooms helped to compile alarming evidence that this leading Internet portal is effectively hosting a forum for paedophiles to freely "groom" children online. Three weeks ago ZDNet provided Yahoo! UK with the IDs of ten customers found to be engaging children in paedophilic conversations on Messenger chat. Two weeks later, Yahoo! finally confirmed that action had been taken against some of the offending customers.

Yahoo!'s UK managing director Martina King is still refusing to comment on the issues raised in ZDNet's Chatroom Danger special report and the US press office claims it has nothing to add on the issue.

What are the risks of paedophiles approaching children through Yahoo! Messenger chatrooms? Find out the details of ZDNet News' investigation in the Chatroom Danger Special Report. WARNING: THESE ARTICLES CONTAIN STRONG AND SEXUALLY EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

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