Closing the Chatrooms

A fairly large piece of Internet utopia is closing down. As reported
by Reuters, Microsoft is draining the sewer that, alas, has
flooded its MSN chatrooms.

"LONDON (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. announced on Wednesday
it would shut down its Internet chat rooms in 28 countries,
saying the forums had become a haven for peddlers of junk
e-mail and sex predators.

"The straightforward truth of the matter is free unmoderated
chat isn't safe," said Geoff Sutton, European general manager
of Microsoft MSN, told Reuters.

From October 14, the software giant will shut down its MSN
chat services in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and
much of Latin America, forcing millions of message board
users to find alternative online forums to discuss the topics of the day.

In those regions, said Microsoft, the chat was free and
unsupervised, giving rise to a nefarious element that
bombarded users with "spam" mail, much of which was
pornographic and, in some cases, allowing pedophiles to
prey on children."

..... "In the United States, Canada and Japan, Microsoft
will introduce an unsupervised chat service solely for subscribers,
who are considered more accountable because their billing details
and identities are on record with the company.

"It's a signal that some of the joyful early days of the Internet
have moved on a bit. Chat was one of those things that was a bit
hippyish. It was free and open. But a small minority have changed
that for everyone. It's very sad," Sutton said.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I wonder if Yahoogroups and other prominent chatrooms will
now take similar steps.

In the early days of euphoria about the Internet, it was considered
bad form to talk about the need to control misbehavior on the Net.
Libertarian freedom was to prevail and only the best of human
traits would be on display. No need to worry about greed, explotation,
corporate domination, the corruption of democracy, or the ordinary
evils that afflict social groups. When I called attention to the need
to pay attention to such matters, I was dismissed as overwrought and
probably "anti-technology." But if one sees technologies as forms of
social and political organization, eventually one has to figure out how
to balance the good with the bad. To postpone confronting these problems
merely exacerbates them, as the MSN debacle clearly demonstrates.