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Habbo Hotel Shutters Chat After Allegations of ‘Pornographic’ Content
Online teen communities seem to be a breeding ground for pedophiles, pornographic chat and inappropriate content.
Another online teen community has come under fire for inappropriate content.
Following Tuesday’s announcement that mobile app Skout temporarily closed its under-18 community amidst rape allegations, Finnish virtual world Habbo Hotel has shut down its chat functions after “reports of abusive behaviors.”
Marketed as “the world’s largest social game and online community for teenagers,” the game boasts 10 million visitors per month to the virtual hotel, where children as young as 13 years old create avatars, chat publicly or privately with other users, and buy credits to furnish animated hotel rooms.
But the service made headlines this week after Rachel Seifert, a producer with the U.K.’s Channel 4 News, said she encountered pornographic chat, avatars engaged in cyber sex, and more. Seifert spent two months investigating the goings-on of the seemingly innocent game. While posing as a young girl, Seifert was asked to strip fully naked, “and asked what would I do on a webcam,” she said.
Seifert had similar sexually charged and inappropriate experiences all 50 times she played the game.
In a blog post, Paul LaFontaine, CEO of Habbo owner Sulake, said he was “greatly saddened that following reports of abusive behaviors amongst a very small part of the Habbo community we have taken the decision to mute all conversations across the site.”
The decision, LaFontaine said, underlines the company’s commitment to ensuring that all site users remain safeguarded from inappropriate behavior. Sulake employs more than 225 moderators, tracking about 70 million lines of global conversation on a 24/7 basis, LaFontaine said in a separate blog post.
In the wake of the very public accusations, the 3i group, which owns a 16 percent of Sulake, said in a statement Wednesday that the company has ditched its board position and shareholding in the Habbo owner. Shareholder Balderton Capital will also return its 13 percent stake and resign from the company’s board.
An internal investigation is ongoing, LaFontaine said.
By Stephanie Mlot, PCMag