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Microsoft Ending Free Chat on MSN

September 25, 2003|From Bloomberg News

Microsoft Corp. will close free Internet chat rooms on its MSN Web sites to help prevent junk e-mail and block access to pedophiles.

MSN, which has 350 million visitors each month, will stop chat services in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia. MSN will introduce paid chat services in the U.S., Canada and Japan Oct. 14, the Redmond, Wash.-based company said in a statement.

Microsoft's action was reported Wednesday by the Financial Times.

Chat rooms have been used by senders of junk messages, or spam, to collect e-mail addresses and by pedophiles to share pictures and data, Microsoft says. About 40% of U.S. e-mail is spam, according to sponsors of a bill in California that was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Gray Davis and imposes penalties of as much as $1 million for senders.

The move also lets MSN, which is trying to cut costs, eliminate some free services. MSN, the No. 2 Internet access provider in the U.S., has been losing subscribers and has started charging fees for some services.

Microsoft still will offer free chat rooms in some countries where messages can be monitored and moderated.

Shares of Microsoft fell $1.14 to $28.46 on Nasdaq.

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