MSN ditches free chat to save kids
By Jonathan Yazer
In what is described as an effort to offer greater protection
to users of its Internet services, Microsoft will be terminating
most of its free, unmoderated online chat service in Canada
by Oct. 14.
"These changes are intended to help protect users from unsolicited
information such as spam and to better protect MSN customers
- especially children - from inappropriate communication online," said
Lisa Gurry, group product manager for MSN, Microsoft's online
"By putting unmoderated chat behind a 'subscription wall,'
only MSN subscribers who have provided a credit card to MSN
will be able to actively contribute to chat sessions in unmoderated
rooms," explained Microsoft spokesperson Jessica Kellar. With
this information, Microsoft hopes to better track those users
who abuse the service, including child predators, she added.
Rob Helm, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, an independent
research firm based in the United States, cited a statistic
from the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children
that one in 17 children have faced some kind of unpleasant
experience while using the Internet.
"Visiting chat rooms poses the greatest danger for children
using the Internet," Helm said. He further noted the new initiative
would significantly hamper the efforts of solicitors of spam.
Canadians who want to use unmoderated MSN chat rooms will
need to subscribe to another MSN service, such as MSN 8 or
Hotmail Extra Storage, stated Rick Broadhead, a Canadian Internet
"It's only fair that MSN receive compensation for improving
the services offered to its customers. But $20 isn't much of
a deterrent for a child predator," said Jason Rolfe, a fourth-year
administration and commercial studies student said.