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Some Yahoo Chat Rooms Shut After Firms Pull Ads

From Bloomberg News

Yahoo Inc. has shut some Internet chat rooms after companies including PepsiCo Inc. and Georgia-Pacific Corp. pulled advertising, citing concerns that the sites were being used by adults to lure young children.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Georgia-Pacific and Pepsi said they pulled certain ads after being informed by a Texas television news station that the ads were being displayed to users of chat rooms covering topics such as pedophilia.

Yahoo, the most-used Internet site, removed all user-created chat rooms and was blocking users from forming new ones, spokeswoman Mary Osako said Wednesday. She declined to say whether the moves were related to the pulled ads.

The moves by State Farm, Georgia-Pacific and Pepsi highlight concerns over children’s online safety.

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“We were thoroughly appalled when we were told that our ads were appearing on those sites,” State Farm spokesman Phil Supple said. “We took immediate action to see that they were withdrawn.”

Houston station KPRC contacted the advertisers this year while reporting a story on Yahoo’s chat rooms. State Farm withdrew all advertising from Yahoo starting in April and began reinstating ads this month, Supple said. Georgia-Pacific removed Yahoo chat room ads starting in March, company spokeswoman Robin Keegan said. PepsiCo’s ads were removed from chat sites in April, spokesman Dave DeCecco said.

Chat rooms allow users with particular interests to exchange short messages with other people around the world.

Yahoo users now cannot create their own chat rooms, and any rooms previously created by users have been removed, Osako said. Users can still chat on the company’s existing rooms, which cover subjects such as “American Idol” and Web design.

Shares of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo fell 5 cents to $36.90.


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