Vodafone closes doors on mobile chat rooms

Vodafone Australia will shut the doors on its mobile phone chat rooms until it can implement new measures designed to stop paedophiles abusing the service the company said late today. A spokesperson for Vodafone said that customers who attempted to access the service after 5pm today were greeted with a splash screen informing them that the chat-room would be closed until further notice.

Vodafone Australia will shut the doors on its mobile phone chat rooms until it can implement new measures designed to stop paedophiles abusing the service the company said late today.

A spokesperson for Vodafone said that customers who attempted to access the service after 5pm today were greeted with a splash screen informing them that the chat-room would be closed until further notice.

The carrier has also hurriedly sent notices to its dealers and partners over the last 24-hours informing them of the impending closure.

Vodafone's decision represents a sharp change from the position it had held since early last week when reports emerged in New Zealand that men were using the service to proposition under age girls.

Those reports prompted Queensland Police's child protection unit to raise concerns about the safety of mobile chat services late last week.

On Friday, Detective Senior Sergeant Jonathan Rouse told ZDNet Australia  that complaints about mobile chat services throughout Queensland were increasing and that prosecution against one individual in relation to use of the service had already commenced.

At the time Rouse raised concerns that paedophiles maybe migrating to the mobile chat rooms from more traditional forms of online chat services.

By Wednesday, Vodafone announced it planned to introduce 24-hour monitoring and profanity filters to its service in an effort to stymie predators, but ruled out closing the chat rooms.

Vodafone maintained that the service did not represent a threat to children. However, late today the carrier reversed its stance, all but admitting its existing safety measures around mobile chat rooms, including its own, were inadequate.

"We have already put in place a range of measures to protect customers including warning and disclaimer pages, reactive management, [and] electronic word and number filtering. However we have made the decision to temporarily suspend our chat services until we have reviewed our systems and determined that we have appropriate measures in place," said the company in statement released late today.

A spokesperson for the company today said it was expected to take around two weeks to implement the new child protection measures.

Vodafone has also called on other carriers to support its gesture, calling on the mobile industry to review the safety of their mobile chat rooms.

"We urge the industry to work with us, the police and industry bodies so that our customers continue to enjoy the benefits of being mobile".