This week, Habbo hotel was forced to mute all conversations on site due to a bad press report and they muted all conversations so they could solve the problem. Tesco, WH Smith and Game have stopped selling there virtual currency cards due to these accusations but with this millions upon millions of loyal and proud users of Habbo Hotel came back and lit a single candle and stoot all around habbo alerting people. I can say I was one of them.
Tesco, WH Smith and GAME stop selling Habbo gift cards after Channel 4 News uncovers lapses in the moderation of an online game for teenagers, including interactions of an explicit sexual nature.
Seemingly innocent, Habbo Hotel, with its bright colours, pink teddy bears, flashing lights, and roaming ponies, is one of a growing number of virtual worlds created for kids. And with 10 million unique visitors a month, it is "the world's largest social game and online community for teenagers".
The game is set in a virtual hotel, where kids create avatars with which they can move around rooms, chat to other users in public or privately and even buy credits in the real world to furnish their virtual hotel room.
However, Channel 4 News found the site to be full of pornographic sexual chat, despite the fact it is aimed at children as young as 13 years old. We know from our own research that youngsters of nine play on Habbo Hotel.
Tesco has revealed that following our investigation it will no longer stock gift cards for the site in its stores. The cards can be used to buy furniture for the users online "rooms" in the hotel.
WH Smith did the same, saying: ""We were concerned to learn of the allegations about Habbo Hotel made in the Channel 4 News report. In response, we have taken this product off sale, pending further investigation."
Channel 4 News producer Rachel Seifert spent two months playing this seemingly innocent game posing as a young girl. She found alongside the balloons and teddies, chats and interactions of an explicit sexual nature. The ease with which this happened was shocking.There should be the equivalent of the virtual fire-brigade jumping in on this, but it's not happening.John Carr, child safety expertRachel said: "The chat was very sexual, perverse, violent, pornographic, overtly sexual acts, people saying they were going to do things to others, and it was very graphic.
"Within two minutes I was being asked individually 'do you have a webcam?', 'can we chat on (instant messenger service) MSN, on Skype?' I was also, within a couple of minutes, asked to strip, fully naked, and asked what would I do on a webcam."
Rachel played the game 50 times and on each occasion had similar experiences.
Read more: Striptease and cyber sex: my stay at Habbo Hotel
When we played the game with one of the world's leading experts on child safety, John Carr, we were soon being asked to move away from the game and onto Skype or MSN. We played the game at 4.30 in the afternoon. Within minutes we were sent a friend request from an avatar called DirtyBoii who soon messaged our avatar, "Can I ask u what yr body's like".
John Carr told us: "A moderator should be jumping in right now as it's not hard to see where this is going before it gets a lot worse. This is very worrying and going in a very bad direction.
"Here's someone aged 11 being asked to leave the site [ie make contact outside Habbo Hotel]. There should be the equivalent of the virtual fire-brigade jumping in on this, but it's not happening.
"If I was a parent of an 11-year old girl on this site, I would want there to be a moral panic. This should not be happening. What I've just seen makes me think this is a dangerous place for youngsters to be.
"Businesses shouldn't put children at risk. If they are in this business, they have to be in it in the right way - the right moderators, the right software, to stop this happening."
In a statement, Paul LaFontaine, the chief executive of Sulake, the company which owns the website, told Channel 4 News it is committed to ensuring that children are safe on the site: "Any online community that allows users to assume virtual identities may be open to abuses, which is why we work hard to keep users safe, filtering content and blocking inappropriate users.
"We also provide education and rapid-response support to users who experience uncomfortable conversations."
He added: "Habbo's moderation and safeguarding procedures includes employing more than 225 moderators, tracking some 70m lines of conversation globally every day on a 24/7 basis. These moderators cover all time-zones and the multiple languages in which Habbo users converse."
Thank you channel 4 for finally alerting us to stuff like this. There is some videos on site too
One users comment on the Guardians web edition said this.
Ever since the Habbo community launched, Armies have existed under the 'Groups rooms'. They are a hub of internet crime, where children work to gain ranks, respect and pay.Children join the armies much like gangs in real life, it's turf war but online, in the comfort of there own bedrooms. Once a Habbo Soldier, these kids must be loyal and show Respect to the Higher ranks. In essence, these are child warriors who are fighting virtual wars.
Many british families believe the idea of children taking part in armies only happens in Africa, but in reality Sulake are allowing it to happen on every computer.
I've played in these Armies since 2003, and during that time i've witnessed:
Hacking: One soldier had his girlfriend exposed, her nude pics were spammed across Enemy Armies, They were of course both children. Many incidents like this happen every week across Habbo Armies, as they are constantly competing against each other, trying to 'diss' one another to become the biggest and best.
Bullying: I was requested at one stage to kill myself and film it in real life since i wasn't worthy enough to continue fighting for the army. Many soldiers constantly threaten each other in real life, saying if they ever meet they'll kill each-other.
Sex: Girls underage have prostituted themselves out in Habbo Armies to be 'promoted'.
The user badimpacter was the owner of 'British Army' on habbo for years, he always boasted
sleeping with underage girls who did it for high positions. He was friends with Habbo Staff.
He's now quit habbo but the 'British Army' continue, along with US army, Canadian Army etc which are all the same.
I have reported these numerous times, and they happened over numerous years but of course your moderation team are entirely hopeless. Your community has actively promoted Habbo Armies by allowing 'Group Badges', ''Group Rooms' etc and many moderators befriended the leaders of Armies.
If Habbo don't immediately ban all 'Armies', 'Militias', 'Gangs' etc on Habbo, which revolve around violence then you are playing with fire as sooner or later people will get injured or killed in real life.
I've played habbo for 8 years and i'd say its more dangerous than letting your child go join a Gang in Brixton, as they can do it on any computer with freedom to abuse. To find Habbo Armies, first click on 'ROOMS', then 'GROUPS'.