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Many in survey say chat's too dirty

Think there's too much filth in chat rooms? You're not alone, according to a new survey.

Think there's too much filth in chat rooms? You're not alone, according to a survey released today by Cyberdialog.

Sixty-five percent of respondents to the survey said they had encountered foul language, and 58 percent said they had seen offensive or sexual remarks.

"I was surprised to see that so many people had encountered those things," said Kevin Mabley, director of research for Cyberdialog. "It is fairly high and a function of what some of the rooms are like."

Chat is one of the fastest-growing businesses on the Internet. But many say that certain perceived problems--namely, sexual or offensive remarks--must be overcome for it to expand into new markets. Disney, for example, is working on plans to offer chat in its online service, but only after making sure that the environment is safe.

One Disney idea: a "panic" button that users can push when they run into such offensive material as foul language, alerting the service's operators.

Other Net companies, such as America Online and Talk City, have moderators to make sure the talk is clean. Users risk being kicked off if they violate terms of the chat rooms.

The Cyberdialog study also said 39 percent reported the incidents to their chat room "hosts."

Eighty-three percent said some restrictions need to be placed on the chat rooms that allow children, but 74 percent said they would consider any government monitoring an invasion of privacy.

The research, conducted in May, was based on a survey of 471 Netizens. Other findings included the following:

  • Only 34 percent of respondents say they were completely honest when in chat rooms, and 98 percent believe that others there are dishonest.

  • 60 percent said a host was a useful way to monitor potentially offensive situations.

  • 77 percent said they believe chat room conversations are protected under the First Amendment.