Chatroom Danger: Carol Vorderman speaks out
By Carol Vorderman
Thu, 15 Mar 2001 12:50:13 GMT
Carol Vorderman last night delivered a tough 'do more' message to the Net
industry on Tongight with Trevor McDonald. Her report was based in part
on ZDNet's Tina Bell Diaries
(http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/2001/10/ns-21589.html): the results of our
covert research into some Yahoo! chatrooms. In this she explains why she
believes the Internet industry is not doing enough to tackle the problem.
WARNING: this article contains strong and sexually explicit language
This evening on ITV's Tonight with Trevor McDonald programme you will
hear the voice of a paedophile grooming a child. A man who believes heís
talking to a 12-year-old girl on the Internet is grooming her for sex.
"Do you know anything about oral sex?" he says in his kindly voice. "Oral
sex is when the mouth is used instead of... other things. Youíre so
sweet. Youíre very special to me. I love you sweetheart."
This man, who calls himself "Jim", isn't talking to a child in an
Internet chatroom -- unknown to him, he's been talking to an
investigative reporter. Five months ago, Patrick Green was sentenced to
five years in jail for having sex with a 13-year-old girl he had met in a
chatroom hosted by Yahoo!. His was the first case of its kind in the UK.
Since then cases have been appearing in our courts with sickening
The Green case gave the Internet industry its first big warning that it
should get its act together. Since then, it hasn't done nearly enough to
protect our children from predators who lurk anonymously and safely on
the Internet. After almost a year of investigation into this agonising
subject of abuse, vulnerability, commercial greed and irresponsibility, I
now believe the situation is critical.
Our film is shocking, and for that I make no apology.
For weeks I have been working with a brilliant technology journalist,
former editor of ZDNet News UK, Richard Barry. We can now prove that our
children are just two clicks of the computer mouse away from a
Using the alias Tina Bell
(http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/2001/10/ns-21589.html), a 12-year-old girl
living in London, we went onto chatrooms hosted through Yahoo! Messenger
(a free piece of software which has exploded onto the Internet in the
last two years).
Within one minute of entering chatrooms filed under "Romance", Tina was
contacted by a paedophile.
Within five minutes our screen was awash with messages from men who
wanted to "chat". Some typed their messages of love and sex, while many
switched to their microphones within minutes. In this way, they spoke and
we heard their voices, while we typed innocent messages claiming that
Tina didn't have a microphone.
There was Davey from Scotland:
"What are you wearing just now darling?" "Joggies (track suit trousers)?"
"What would you do if I put my hand down your joggies?" "I want you to
sit on my knee and wrap your legs around my waist facing me..."
A man from a town in the south-east wanted to meet up. A man from the
north-east wanted the same. A second Scotsman sent us photos of birthday
cakes he had been making and sending to other children.
Jim: "When you go in the shower sometimes do you touch yourself? Do you
masturbate? Are you ticklish? If I touch the skin on your neck now that
would be ticklish, and right above your breast, thatís ticklish and..."
On and on it went, getting more and more explicit and humiliating and
Yes, clever. Chatrooms are now allowing paedophiles direct access to
children in a way that has not been possible before. The "grooming" (and
I wish to God that someone would think of a more realistic word to show
the true horror of this process) that would take months in the outside
world is, thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, being condensed into
weeks. Children are being abused online by strangers in the "safety" of
their own homes.
Today, the Internet is a safe paradise for paedophiles. Nobody sees them,
they don't have to confront any other adults, everything is kept as a
secret between them and the children. They make sure of that.
When paedophiles use their microphones in chat rooms, their voices will
come out of the child's computer speakers. To protect themselves, they
are now asking children to get headphones (cost about £15) so that the
paedophile's voice won't be overheard by anybody else in the child's
house. It has even been suggested that children now get web cameras
attached to the computers they keep in their bedrooms so that the
paedophile can encourage the child to touch themselves while they watch.
Horrendous? Shocking? Disgusting? Yes. And the industry which makes money
from it appears loathe to do much about it.
I've spoken to many children who have been sexually abused by paedophiles
they first met in an Internet chatroom. One young and brave girl told me
how she believed she was safe because the man was just someone who typed
onto a screen: he wasnít real. A vulnerable teenager, he had coaxed her
into sexual conversations. His "special time" was when he took her into
his "rose garden", the term he used for the time he would masturbate
while telling her what he specifically wanted to do to her.
That man became real a matter of weeks after contact had first been made.
He travelled four hundred miles to have sex with her. She is a lovely
girl who is now being humiliated by local bullies who know her story and
want her to suffer even more. They ought to be ashamed.
And don't believe it's just girls who suffer. A charming, intelligent
teenage boy in Cardiff I spoke to last week wandered into a gay site on
the Net. Within two minutes he had been contacted by a paedophile. That
man met up with the boy and abused him a matter of weeks later. He was
Anthony Gray, a married father, a lecturer in Oxford and worker with
youth groups. He has been found guilty of rape and now awaits sentencing.
In the first film I made about this subject I recommended a site which
gives advice to parents. The site, www.chatdanger.com, received hundreds
of similar stories, 38 of which were immediately referred to the police
and other authorities.
These are not isolated cases: the list is long.
All of the children I have spoken to have told me that they wouldn't have
confided in their parents because they were ashamed. The discoveries of
abuse have come from chance. And still the internet industry comes up
with its pathetic excuses.
We were all horrified by the Wonderland case (and the pathetic
sentencing) -- a catalogue of paedophilic abuse of children and
horrendous images being exchanged over the Internet for sexual
gratification. At the time of sentencing, the newsgroups where similar
images are traded were still being hosted by certain Internet Service
Providers. There seems to be little will by many companies to tackle the
problem. It was only after threats in the media to name and shame the
worst companies that one or two have pledged to take down sites called
"babies for sex", "paedophileís paradise" and so on. Demon Internet had
been one of the worst offenders and cynical as I am, I'm continuing to
watch them closely.
The best the industry spokespeople can come up with, after months of
meetings, is a few recommendations to their members (and these are ONLY
The main recommendation is that parents should be educated in these
matters so that they can protect their children online. Pathetic, isn't
it? We need new laws for this new technology and more resources for
police, but the most powerful way to stop it is for chatrooms to be
monitored and closed down by the companies who make their money from
them. Until that happens, I will continue to kick and scream for one
Your child is just two clicks away from Jim. Please God donít let him
into your life.
Opinion - when online chat leads to the Crying Rooms
By Richard Barry
Thu, 15 Mar 2001 13:08:16 GMT
Richard Barry's last opinion piece for ZDNet (he is moving on after three
years at the ZDNN helm) is an impassioned plea to the Internet industry
to do more to make chatrooms safer for children. WARNING: this article
contains strong and sexually explicit language
Tina Bell, a typical 12-year-old girl with a home computer, has been
abused over a period of four weeks after installing Yahoo!'s Instant
Messenger on the new PC her mum bought her for Christmas. Paedophiles,
scouring rooms Yahoo! wonít take down or supervise, spotted Tina and
subjected her to a process that is sickening to experience.
Fortunately, Tina Bell is not a real 12-year-old girl. I created her
persona to find out what it was like to be a naive young girl exploring
chatrooms -- or, the "Crying Rooms", as they might more accurately be
described. For the strong of stomach, these experiences are documented in
the Tina Bell Diaries
(http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/2001/10/ns-21589.html). I have no doubt that
if Tina had existed, she would be in danger of being raped... just like
any other vulnerable child who wanders into the Crying Rooms operated and
maintained by Yahoo!.
The Crying Rooms are something I came across on Yahoo!'s instant
messaging service -- just two clicks of the mouse and you enter a world
of paedophile chat. Online paedophilia is a political minefield for a
journalist. In our lofty position as overseers and informers we are
surrounded by people determined to persuade us that online paedophilia is
a problem we have to live with because the alternative would damage
freedom of speech.
And they do it well. I have to admit, having listened to all the debate,
the reasoning and the dialogue that goes on about paedophiles operating
on the Net, I have at times succumbed to the comfortable position of
I've been watching long enough.
Having covered this issue as a reporter for around six years, it is now
time to say what I believe. And I believe this. There is a company that
allows paedophiles to use its chatrooms to hunt and abuse children. That
company's executives have known for several months that children risk
being engaged in cybersex when they use these rooms, so they have become
adept at avoiding difficult questions. They want parents to believe
everything is alright.
But everything is not alright. Assurances from senior executives that
measures would be taken to deal with men using these Crying Rooms as a
dial-a-child service have simply not been delivered. And in an
unconscionable act of disregard for the family of the 13-year-old girl
raped by 33-year-old Patrick Green, Yahoo! has still not removed the room
where this tragedy began.
It is unacceptable that a company like Yahoo! ignores the results of
months of ZDNet's research into the sickening activity it knows goes on
in its chatrooms. That work has revealed a predatory online culture where
paedophiles are able to target children using sophisticated
communications technologies, speak to them, form relationships with them
and in some cases actually physically abuse them. Abuse of children is
being inadequately dealt with by a world leader in the New Economy.
There are still no warnings about paedophiles on Yahoo!'s Instant
Messenger. There are still no plans to block, or manage the rooms where
these perverts operate. Any child, anywhere, can simply log on and enter
the Crying Rooms simply by downloading the software from Yahoo.com or one
of its partners.
From signing up any number of anonymous logins, your child could be
speaking to an experienced online paedophile within 60 seconds of logging
on. I know, I have done it.
Yahoo.co.uk will no longer allow me to speak with its UK managing
director, Martina King, despite personal assurances from her that I could
maintain a dialogue to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Yahoo.com refuses
to respond either. Perhaps it hopes will all be forgotten as a result of
the continuing foot and mouth crisis. In fact it is about to be broadcast
to an audience of millions. ITN's Tonight programme has documented
ZDNetís investigation into how paedophiles use Yahoo!'s chatrooms and
voice chat to abuse children.
Over the last month or so I have covertly surfed Yahoo! chatrooms in the
guise of a 12-year-old girl to see how simple it is for a child to meet
an Internet predator. It is quite literally two clicks away from the main
screen of the messaging service. Those two clicks from Yahoo!'s
"friendly" user interface propel children completely unsupervised and
unprotected, into a world operated by men who chat openly about "kiddie
fucking" and where "trading" images of abuse are the norm.
The Crying Rooms are populated every day with men either talking about
their sexual exploits with children or those who actually hunt young
users, looking for clues of age in login names or the Personal Profiles
facility. It's an environment that operates within the amusement park
Yahoo! provides for its millions of users world-wide. But unlike any
amusement park youíve ever been to, this one allows abusers to set up
areas where they can prey on children. They lure children using
sophisticated techniques -- and cutting edge technology -- to convince
young minds that having sex with an adult is OK.
They use Yahoo!'s chatrooms to manipulate children into sexual acts and
conversations that child psychologists agree will have long term
psychological effects. If things go well for the paedophile, they can use
Yahoo!'s amusement park to set up a meeting. Green set up a meeting. His
victim paid with her innocence, her childhood and her family can think of
But this isnít just about Yahoo!, it is about an industry that has failed
miserably to manage its social responsibility when it comes to protecting
young people using the Internet. The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) by
its own admission is barely scratching the surface of the problem and
acts in a manner that suggests it doesn't understand the issues.
At its House of Lords meeting in January, Clive Feather, the IWF's deputy
chairman, threw the blame back at the parents after details of the
Patrick Green case were revealed. Feather is deputy chairman of the IWF,
an organisation that was purportedly set up to protect children online.
His comment disgusted those present, and he has never accepted an
invitation from ZDNet to explain his position more clearly.
ISPA (Internet Service Providers' Association) is unable to act against
any ISP which is not a member of its voluntary club. Privacy advocates
have criticised one of ISPA's members, Thus, suggesting it had gone too
far when it announced it was banning newsgroups with paedophile labels.
Secretary general of ISPA, Nicholas Lansman, told a Panorama programme
investigating the notorious porn ring the "Wonderland Club" that
newsgroups with names like alt.fuck.babies "don't just carry paedophile
content" and tried to deny it when I cross examined him on these
Meanwhile the police are left having to confiscate the hardware from
arrested paedophiles so they can use it themselves. Your police force is
having to use these computers because it doesn't have enough funding to
provide modern equipment for itself.
The systems in place to prevent child abuse taking place through the
Internet are woefully inadequate. More significantly, they are run by
individuals who act in a way that suggests they are less interested in
protecting children and more interested in protecting the ISP business.
Back in 1996 I fought against government intervention on this issue
believing the industry had the ability and the will, to do what it takes
to deal with paedophiles online. I believed the industry would be able to
manage this itself.
It is neither willing nor able.
Even my former parent company, ZDNet.com -- which, after Yahoo!, is one
of the biggest providers of users for its IM software -- has failed to
act on requests from senior ZDNet editors in the UK to provide a warning
for parents on its download page -- a page where ZDNet readers can click
on a link to be taken to Yahoo! to get the IM client. A request to make
the safer, chatroom-disabled, "UK Version" of Yahoo!'s IM the default
offering to UK domains was also refused on the grounds that this was not
Large Internet businesses are ignoring requests from the UK because their
businesses are based in the US, often citing Americaís First Amendment as
I simply do not believe the First Amendment was designed to protect
These companies continue to export the software which I have proven
enables paedophiles to get close to children. Why is Yahoo! failing to
take any decisive action following the rape of a young girl by Patrick
Green and how dare ZDNet.com ignore warnings from its UK satellite about
the potential dangers of this software? To me it is ducking its
Yahoo!'s apathy disgusts me and this disregard for children it represents
is endemic in an industry I have served for nearly a decade. If the
companies and the industry cannot deal with this problem, and let's be
clear they can't, it is time for change.
The tabloids, led by children's charities and Carol Vorderman, are now
leading a campaign to clean up chatrooms. They will not be swayed by the
technical, commercial, or libertarian smokescreens this industry
consistently hides behind.
I support them and the tactics they will employ to get Yahoo! and the
rest of this industry to act responsibly. You have had your chance and
despite all your concerned gestures and promises of a safe Net where
children can study and learn about the world, you have failed. The
organisations designed to protect our kids are little more than
government quangos led by technical misfits who place a child's safety
below that of the continued prosperity of the World Wide Web.
I do not understand the companies that continue to make available this
facility. You have demonstrated an unwillingness to join society in its
ejection of these evil people and continue to provide them with the tools
to destroy a child's life.
The Internet industry should be ashamed. More importantly, it should now
act to make Internet chatrooms safer for children.
The Tina Bell Diaries
By Wendy McAuliffe
Thu, 15 Mar 2001 13:00:12 GMT
Transcripts from the 'Tina Bell Diaries' -- ZDNet's investigation into
the dangers posed by some Yahoo! Messenger chatrooms. WARNING: this
article contains strong and sexually explicit language. We have altered
the IM names used in the following chatroom conversations
Chatrooms offered by popular portal Yahoo! are used by paedophiles to
lure children into sexual conversations and trade paedophilic images
online. An independent investigation by ZDNet News into Yahoo! Messenger
chatrooms gathered alarming proof that this leading Internet portal is
hosting a forum for paedophiles to freely exercise their perverted sexual
A two minute stint in chatrooms entitled "Younger girls for older men" or
"Girls watching guys jerkoff" is sufficient to stumble upon a paedophile
ring discussing their latest exploit. Here's one we found.
Bikerdaddy: did she wiggle a lot?
Strongman: Yes. We gave her some dope
Strongman: This was the 3rd time -- she's getting better
Bikerdaddy: How many did her?
Strongman: I fucked her alone while her Mum watched...and helped --
Net paedophiles will go to the extent of claiming ownership over
innocuous rooms such as "Teens", where children are likely to be
Doctorealdildo: you like fucking?
Doctorealdildo: this is a sex room
Doctorealdildo: don't you know?
Tina_Bell: oh is it?
Tina_Bell: no it says teen and preteen girls
Doctorealdildo: you had better get out
Doctorealdildo: call...if you want some phone sex
Yahoo! Messenger has been criticised by child psychologists for
increasing the threat of children being sexualised and "groomed" by
online predators. The software, downloadable from yahoo.com, enables
paedophiles to establish a one-to-one relationship with children whom
they made initial contact with in a Yahoo! chatroom. ZDNet's
investigation confirms fears that paedophiles are using the Yahoo!
service to engage vulnerable children in cybersex.
Experienced paedophiles follow a particular protocol for enticing
children into sexual conversations. They begin by luring the victim,
usually a girl, into a false sense of trust and security, establishing
how old they are and whether or not they are alone. Once it has been
confirmed that her parents are away from the computer, and that she is
willing to engage in conversation, the man will typically encourage her
to perform preparatory sexual acts for him such as removing an item of
Boy_alfonso: will your remove your pyjamas for me?
Boy_alfonso: are you half naked now?
Boy_alfonso: is your room locked?
The minimum goal of a Net paedophile is to persuade the child to
participate in cybersex. At this stage of the conversation, the man will
often demonstrate a lot of patience in explaining this concept that will
understandably be very new to the girl.
Boy_alfonso: well have you ever tried cyber?
Tina_Bell: what is cyber?
Boy_alfonso: cyber...its like sex on the Net
Boy_alfonso: sex on the Net...its like sex on the phone...
Tina_Bell: I'm only 12
Boy_alfonso: try it you'll have fun
ZDNet has been told by child psychologists that the point at which
children are in danger of being sexualised by paedophilic conversations
is when they are exposed to sexual information before they have reached a
suitable level of maturity.Within the ZDNet investigation, predators were
clearly aroused by introducing child virgins to the adult world of sex.
Frank_angel: did you ever see a man's hard cock before?
Frank_angel: do you like to rub your pussy?
Frank_angel: make it all wet
Frank_angel: make you feel good
Tina_Bell: I don't know
Frank_angel: bet you do it all the time...you should try it
Frank_angel: his hands are all over you
Tina_Bell: no they are not
Frank_angel: touching your tits
Frank_angel: slipping down you knickers
Frank_angel: fingering you
Frank_angel: making you wet
Frank_angel: you can feel his hard cock against you
The transcripts contained within this article are shocking to the adult
reader, but child users of Yahoo! Messenger can be confronted with
equally threatening conversations every time they enter certain
chatrooms. Despite increasing pressure from children's charities and
child psychologists to get Yahoo.com to monitor its chatroom content, the
US Internet giant still refuses to respond effectively to criticism.
The 60 second route to abuse
By Wendy McAuliffe
Thu, 15 Mar 2001 13:12:05 GMT
An investigation carried out by ZDNet News UK reveals that it takes less
than a minute for a predator to approach a child in some Yahoo! Messenger
chatrooms. WARNING: this report contains strong and sexually explicit
Chatrooms entitled "11-16 year old sluts for 30+ men" and "Younger women
for older men" were flagged to Yahoo! UK for their adult-rated content in
October last year. The rooms categorised under the heading "Romance"
still exist, with suspected paedophiles frequently using them in order to
"groom" vulnerable children online.
"It is clear from the research we have done that Net-savvy paedophiles
have been given a new tool to seek out and harm children online. I have
to conclude after nearly four months covering this problem that neither
the industry nor the companies offering these services have the
commitment to deal effectively with this issue," said Richard Barry, who
led the investigation for ZDNet News.
ZDNet News used a false identity to register with Yahoo!'s Messenger
client. The sign-up process requires a user to be over 18, but since no
proof of identity is required, it is possible for any minor to lie about
their age. Once in the chatroom, pseudonyms of girls aged 12 or 13 were
In each conversation, it was a matter of seconds before the "girl" was
hit with adult solicitations. The more sophisticated and cautious
paedophile would often be open about their age, but patient in
establishing a sense of trust in the child. "They do this by talking
about the trials of being a young adult, and try to get a clear picture
in their mind of the child's set-up at home. Once they have gained this
trust and built up a 'friendship', the conversation then starts to turn
sexual," Barry explained.
A typical ruse employed by paedophiles is when the predator asks the
victim what she is wearing. This is usually followed by asking her to
take something off such as her underwear. The more cunning paedophile
will say something more innocuous like "do you enjoy taking showers",
swiftly followed by "do you touch yourself in the bath?" It is also
commonplace to ask the girl if she has pubic hair in order to build up a
mental picture of her level of physical maturity.
The intention of most paedophiles is to engage the girl in cybersex
activities. As the following excerpt from a real conversation highlights,
little evidence of response or participation is needed from the girl in
order for the man to continue the solicitation.
Example of real conversation:
Man: is your room locked?
Man: will you spread your legs and touch your pussy...
Man: is it good?
Man: spread your legs
Example of real conversation:
We can talk about this because can't we?
Man: Do you put your fingers inside you?
Man: How many can you put inside you?
Man: I want to be inside you now
During the investigation, responses were kept as bland as possible
without putting off the subject. "The whole purpose was to establish how
far the paedophile would go -- it's a very difficult line to tread,"
explained Barry. ZDNet has received advice from the Paedophile Unit at
New Scotland Yard and Charing Cross Clubs and Vice Squad on how to
conduct the conversations.
ZDNet's first hand experience proves how difficult it is for children to
step out of the adult-rated conversations that they can so easily get
caught up in. "The way in which the conversation goes invites you into
their [the paedophile's] personal life. You become embroiled in this
person's existence -- he makes you feel important as he looks forward to
speaking to you," said Barry.
In addition to standard text chat offered by Yahoo! Messenger, there is
also the facility for voice chat. Child psychologists agree that voice
has the ability to capture a child's attention more effectively than
text. It is more immediate, and bypasses the problem of children having a
slow typing speed or poor spelling.
Barry explained how one paedophile, "Jim", would use his voice to instill
a sense of calm in the child. "Jim had a well rehearsed tone -- he never
raises his voice and makes good use of vocal gestures to amuse the child.
The child will find the voice amusing and compelling. They feel they are
in a real relationship with these men and see them as special."
Yahoo! refuses to comment on this or any other evidence ZDNet has brought
to its attention during this investigation
Flurry of Net paedophile cases hit Britain
By Wendy McAuliffe
Thu, 15 Mar 2001 17:46:49 GMT
British courts sentencing at least one Net paedophile a week
A flurry of British Net paedophile cases this year has exposed the
Internet as an underground network of paedophile rings, where vulnerable
children are lured into sexual meetings, and abused for the production
and distribution of child pornography.
On 13 February, seven British men were sentenced for their participation
in the world's largest Internet child pornography ring -- dubbed the
"Wonderland Club". Three-quarters of a million indecent images of
children were discovered on the defendants' home computers, depicting
1,263 children engaged in sexual acts with other children or adults.
British courts have since been inundated with horrific cases where men
have used Internet chatrooms to initially make contact with children, and
then entice them into an offline meeting.
ZDNet brings you a full roundup of the growing number of victims produced
by the Internet.
Internet paedophile cases so far
FBI nets Scottish Web paedophile
Mon, 12 Mar FBI agent successfully lures paedophile into cyber-trap
Fourteen-year-old girl raped by Net paedophile
Fri, 02 Mar Another Net paedophile convicted
14 year sentence for Net paedophile
Mon, 26 Feb Ex-police officer found to be abusing children he claimed to
Oxford scholar used Net to lure schoolboy
Wed, 21 Feb Jail sentence awaits another Net paedophile
Wonderland paedophiles are sentenced
Tue, 13 Feb But not one member of the Internet child pornography ring
received the maximum possible sentence of three years
Internet child pornographer gets 35 years
Fri, 19 Jan Virginia man caught posting home digital pictures of
schoolgirl on Web
Massive paedophile operation leads to arrests
Wed, 17 Jan Nationwide operation leads to 13 arrests and 27 computers