If you take a look at Keith's post back a bit here in this thread, you might understand better the safety issues we are concerned about. Keith is legally a child, a minor under 18. He could also be 14 or 16. We have no way of knowing. He could represent himself as a legal adult, say 21. If he is actually 17, he is legally a minor.
This guy comes on and tries to cybersex with him or gets his phone number, address or whatever. We have no way of controlling what anyone does in pm or by slipping to other sites.
Let's say that Keith is actually a minor (yes, we believe you are 17 which is actually a minor.) Say he hooks up with a 42 year old guy who gets involved with him sexually. Most of us would be appalled that a kid could get into this kind of situation, particularly if he is coming here to resolve his abuse issues. A perpetrator could exploit Keith or any minor and it would not be in Keith's best interests.
Suppose Keith gets abused by this guy he met on MS Chat. Suppose his parents are outraged that their son was sexually misused/abused by this adult. They decide they are going to prosecute the guy. Hey, we're probably all in agreement that this should be done. They might also want to take a look at where this activity came about.
Guess what. The scene of the crime (at least its roots) is at the MS chat room. Want to put an estimate on how much damage you (if you were the parent) would like to go after the perpetrator (who might or might not have any money) AS WELL AS THE PLACE THAT BROUGHT THESE TWO TOGETHER?
That will give you a little example of the potential risk we have with chat. We can't depend on believing that our intentions to help people is going to protect us from financial ruin.
Were it something that developed out of the bulletin board (discussion forum), we might have a little leeway for saying that our moderators are on the lookout for any suspicious action. Can I say that our mods have been trained and supervised with the state of the art technology? They are all good people with skills and maturity we hope will help and protect our readers. We can't monitor private mail (or chat private rooms), but we have a little more protection in discussion forums than we do in chat.
Are you beginning to see some of the concerns of the board? If there is a lawsuit, would you, as a "guest" or dues paying member be liable? Would you be willing to pay a share of a multi-million lawsuit from outraged parents of a minor abused on this website? Are the board of directors liable? You better believe it. We have Directors and Operators Insurance but that is pretty much limited. Would it protect us in the above scenario? I don't know but I sure wouldn't want to put up my house to cover any lawsuits.
Hope that gives a little perspective on some of the reasons for the decision.
Blissfully retired after 35 years treating sexual abuse