Yahoo sued over Candyman child porn site

A minor and his parents have filed a $10 million lawsuit against Yahoo Inc. and a man who once operated a Yahoo Groups site where members traded child pornography.

The lawsuit, filed on May 9 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, charged that Yahoo breached its duties by allowing co-defendant Mark Bates and others to share child pornography on a site, called Candyman, that Bates created and moderated via the Yahoo Groups service.

Yahoo spokeswomen Mary Osako said the company had not been served and did not comment on pending litigation.

Bates pleaded guilty in 2002 to setting up the Candyman group site for the trade and distribution of child pornography, the Houston Chronicle reported at the time. The site attracted thousands of users and was in operation for two months before Yahoo closed it down in February 2001.

Pornographic photos of the plaintiff -- who is using the name Johnny Doe -- were taken and posted to the Candyman site by a neighbour, said the lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

Among other things, the plaintiffs alleged that Yahoo was aware of the activity on the site and that it took no action to block or remove the pornographic images of Doe and other children.

Attorneys familiar with cases involving online service providers said the Communications Decency Act generally shielded Websites from responsibility for material posted by users.

"Unless the plaintiff has very concrete proof that Yahoo knew that this group contained child pornography, it's very likely that Yahoo will not be liable," said John Morris, staff counsel at the Centre for Democracy and Technology in Washington.

"We believe that they knew, and at a minimum didn't exercise reasonable care on their sites," said Adam Voyles, the plaintiffs' lead attorney.

A child pornography investigation led by the FBI and dubbed Operation Candyman targeted Yahoo Groups users and resulted in the arrest of more than 100 people in the United States.

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