'Habbo Hotel' Children's Site Full of 'Pornographic Activity'
Habbo Hotel, an online game popular amongst teenagers, has been exposed as a forum ‘filled with pornographic chat’ by a TV investigation.
Habbo Hotel, which has more than 250 million registered users aged between 13 and 18 years-old and attracts 10 million users a month, is meant to be fun game in which children create avatars and furnish their own digital hotel room.
However, as Channel 4 News producer Rachel Seifert found out during her two month-long stint using the site, posing as a 13-year old, instead, Habbo Hotel is playing regular host to highly sexual exchanges.
Rachel 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."
What is Habbo Hotel?
Habbo Hotel, now commonly called "Habbo" is a Finnish social networking site aimed at teenagers. The service began in 2000 and has expanded to include 11 online communities (or "hotels"), with users in over 150 countries.
Children as young as eight are believed to be using the site, which last month, according to online audience measurement company, Quantcast, attracted 291,000 British teenage players.
John Carr, a child safety expert and consultant, also played the game with the Channel 4 News producer and within minutes, was send a friend request from an avatar called ‘DirtyBoii’ with the accompanying message: “Can I ask u what yr body's like".
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."