MSN Chat: It's the child protection lobby wot's to blame – LINX

'Knee-jerk calls'

MSN "can't be faulted" for its decision to close its chat rooms, according to peering outfit LINX.

In a statement, Malcolm Hutty, Regulation Officer of the London Internet Exchange (LINX), claims ISPs have been put under severe pressure to take action.

He argues that the child protection lobby recognises the dangers of children having Net access, but ignores the benefits associated with Net access.

And he warns that a "knee-jerk" reaction calling on ISPs to drop "whole sections of Internet services" is "not a helpful contribution" to the ongoing debate on Internet safety.

The full statement from Mr Hutty:

NGO pressure groups have mounted a sophisticated political campaign to hold ISPs (and other providers of Internet communications services like MSN) responsible for everything bad that happens on the Internet. Today we see that the ultimate result of continually demanding the impossible of ISPs is not that the Internet suddenly becomes perfectly safe, but that companies are simply forced to close their services down.

MSN can't be faulted for this decision; like all providers of Internet services they've been under huge pressure from the child protection lobby. But society will be poorer if Internet services are gradually removed.

The child protection lobby recognises the dangers of children having Internet access, but sometimes seems to ignore the enormous benefits that the Internet brings to society as a whole, adults as well as children. They say that "open, free, unmoderated" chat services are too dangerous and call for all ISPs to drop them too. Millions of chat room users would be very upset if this did happen.

Where exactly is this leading? If perfect safety is the only standard we can tolerate, will the next target be "open, free, unmoderated" web sites? Or will the next demands be to close down e-mail, because that has its own danger too?

We support a considered, balance approach to internet safety, with the ISP industry working closely with law enforcement to protect children while retaining freedom of access to the Internet. Knee-jerk calls on ISPs to drop whole sections of Internet services are not a helpful contribution.

As a company, MSN has to decide for itself what services it wants to offer. But as a society, we have to decide whether we believe in free communications between millions of individuals, or whether we want to return to the "one-to-many" world of highly regulated TV and Radio broadcasting. ®

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