'There are companies out there that are more concerned about profitability.'Also in June, a teen-oriented virtual world called Habbo Hotel, which boasts hundreds of millions of registered users, temporarily blocked all chatting after UK television reported that two sex predators had found victims on the site and that a journalist posing as an 11-year-old girl was bombarded with explicit remarks and requests that she disrobe on webcam.Former employees said site owner Sulake of Finland laid off many in-house workers earlier this year, leaving it unable to moderate 70 million lines of daily chat adequately.Filters and moderators are essential for a clean experience, said Claire Quinn, safety chief at a smaller site aimed at kids and young teens, Wee World.But the programs and people cost money and can depress ad rates.Another pillar in Facebook's strategy is to limit how those under 18 can interact on the site and to make it harder for adults to find them.
Some sites go much further: Disney's Club Penguin offers a choice of viewing either filtered chat that avoids blacklisted words or chats that contain only words that the company has pre-approved.Duncan, one of a half-dozen law enforcement officials interviewed who praised Facebook for triggering inquiries, said: 'The manner and speed with which they contacted us gave us the ability to respond as soon as possible.'Facebook is among the many companies that are embracing a combination of new technologies and human monitoring to thwart sex predators.Such efforts generally start with automated screening for inappropriate language and exchanges of personal information, and extend to using the records of convicted pedophiles' online chats to teach the software what to seek out.But instead of looking just at one set of messages it will examine whether a user has asked for contact information from dozens of people or tried to develop multiple deeper and potentially sexual relationship, a process known as grooming.
Companies can set the software to take many defensive steps automatically, including temporarily silencing those who are breaking rules or banning them permanently.From a business perspective, however, there are powerful reasons not to be so restrictive, starting with teen expectations of more freedom of expression as they age.