Microsoft has joined the bandwagon of exploiting the “for the children” mantra to get what they want. This new policy sounds noble:

Microsoft announced this morning that it will shut down its free MSN chat rooms in Europe, Asia, and Latin America and limit the service in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Brazil in order to reduce criminal exploitation of children, pornographic spam, and other inappropriate uses. The changes will take effect October 14, according to Microsoft, and affect all of the countries in which MSN is available. Executives from the company noted that chat rooms were increasingly filled with inappropriate content for children in recent months as most legitimate users are moving from chat rooms to instant messaging (IM) for online chat.

“We recognize that [this inappropriate conduct and content] is a common industrywide problem,” says MSN’s Lisa Gurry. “We’ve taken a look at our service and how can we make efforts to step up our efforts to provide a safe environment … The change is intended to help protect MSN users from unsolicited information such as spam and to better protect children from inappropriate communication online.” The company’s decision to change its chat strategy comes in the wake of a sharp increase in high profile cases worldwide where children and other people have been lured to physically meet with sexual offenders and other miscreants after chatting online.

But, wait!

In the US, Canada, Japan, and Brazil, MSN’s chat rooms will stay open, but users will have to participate in at least one paid service at MSN, ensuring that Microsoft has their credit card number and other personal information on file in the event of abuse

They have to start charging money. . . to prevent abuse.

FILED UNDER: Environment, Science & Technology, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. 42nd SSD says:

    In a way, I think that’s absolutely right.

    I’ve been using various Internet chat thingys since 1987 or so. Most of the free ones (including one of the most popular, IRC) have ended up with major hacking/abuse problems of various sorts. I currently use one that’s pretty stable, but only because it’s relatively obscure.

    As another example, look at the game servers (chess and backgammon are the ones I’m most familiar with). The pay services suffer much less frequently from the typical problems (deliberately dropped games, people playing with the help of a program, rating stealing, spam) than the free ones.

    Pay-for message boards are the same way as well. Even a $5 yearly fee can make the difference between incessant spam/flamage and reasonably coherent conversation.

    That’s not to say people can’t steal credit cards and accounts in order to abuse a chat system or whatever–but it takes more motivation and planning. Most of the IRC stunts are conducted by bored kids; if it’s too easy and costs nothing, people will do it.

    I can’t comment on the “appropriate behavior” or “safe environment” stuff, as I suspect the desperate people are “lewd” whether they have to pay for the service or not. I do believe that requiring a subscription of some sort will cut down on much of the abuse.