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MSN slammed over child chat access

Chat rooms too easy to turn into danger zones

Microsoft's ISP, MSN, has been attacked by TV presenter and child care activist Carol Vorderman for its slack parental controls.

Vorderman was speaking at UK internet watchdog the Internet Watch Foundation's conference yesterday in the House of Lords.

On the MSN home page, by clicking on ‘Teen’ under the ‘chat room’ headings, anyone can be routed to chat topics including Teen Shag and UK Flirt. It is free access to areas where young people are expecting a level of sexual banter that has invited Vorderman's wrath, and provoked debate at the conference.

“ISPs cannot be held responsible for criminal content on their site,” said Ruth Dixon, deputy chief executive of the IWF. “But it is up to them to act responsibly once they are made aware of the situation.”

Unfortunately this does not seem to be the situation. Carol Vorderman was not impressed. “There was no real corporate or government desire to clean up the sites,” she said. Until such desire occurs parents can expect little support in controlling what their children access over the internet, she added, singling out MSN.

MSN’s press office told us that no one was available to comment on the matter, but provided us with a general statement saying it is investigating the accusations. The statement says certain people and sites that breach MSN’s code of conduct have since been removed from the site.

Microsoft stressed that any complaints received will be dealt with within 24 hours and any material deemed offensive will be banned from the site.

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