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Ex-worker says teen website has ties to big porn enterprise

Parents and child safety experts concerned about the online activities of teenagers have been nervous about a website called Stickam, which lets its 600,000 registered users, aged 14 and older, participate in live video chats using their Web cameras.

But those advocates might be even more anxious if they knew of Stickam's close ties to a large online pornography business.

On its website and in press reports, Stickam says it is owned by Advanced Video Communications, or AVC, a three-year-old Los Angeles company that sells video conferencing and e-commerce services to businesses in Japan and other Asian countries.

But according to Alex Becker, a former vice president at Stickam, and internal company documents, Advanced Video Communications is managed and owned by Wataru Takahashi, a Japanese businessman who also owns and operates DTI Services, a vast network of websites that offer live sex shows over Web cameras. Becker alleges that Stickam shares office space, employees, and computer systems with the pornographic websites.

Becker recently left Stickam after four months there and said he was speaking out because the company was not doing enough to protect young users of its service. Becker criticized what he said was the practice of sharing employees among Stickam and the pornographic sites. The workers at Takahashi's firms "only know how to conduct an adult website," he said. "They don't get it that there are predators on the Internet."

When asked about Becker's allegations, Scott Flacks, Stickam's vice president for marketing, denied that the site was negligent about protecting users, or that unread e-mail messages from users had been deleted. "We take security issues very seriously and have a dedicated team to monitor and eliminate improper material," he said. He also said Becker had plans to create a site that would compete with Stickam and was being "retaliatory" because he was unable to reach agreement on a contract with the company.