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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.
'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.
The alleged predator has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of soliciting a minor.
Sulake said it had kept 225 moderators and is still investigating what went wrong.
By some measures, Internet-related sex crimes against children have always been rare and are now falling (as are reports of assaults on minors that do not involve the Net).
Yet even though defensive techniques are now available and effective they can be expensive.
They can also alienate some of a site's target audience - especially teen users who expect more freedom of expression.'There are companies out there that are doing a very good job, working within the confines of what they have available,' said Brooke Donahue, a supervisory special agent with an FBI team devoted to Internet predators and child pornography.
Most sex crimes against children are committed by people the children know, rather than strangers.