U.K. Retailers Drop Habbo Cards

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U.K. Retailers Drop Habbo Cards

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A report on rampant pedophile activity has led to further backlash against the popular kids' MMO Habbo.

U.K.-based Channel 4 aired its exposé of pedophiles on Habbo, a social network/MMO that caters to young teens that's been in operation since 2000. It's a popular site, drawing in excess of nine million unique users per month, but it also has, not without reason, a reputation as the sort of place that pedophiles might take an interest in. The prevalence of pedo activity suggested by last night's report, however, was still surprising.

"Within two minutes I was being asked individually 'Do you have a webcam?', 'Can we chat on [instant messenger service] MSN, on Skype?'," said producer Rachel Seifert, who claimed that she was approached for sexually explicit chat and interactions during each of her 50 visits to the game over two months. "I was also, within a couple of minutes, asked to strip, fully naked, and asked what would I do on a webcam."

The report cost Habbo developer Sulake its second-largest investor, Balderton Capital, which revealed its intention to sell its 13 percent stake in the company and resigned from the board of directors even before the show aired, but now retailers are stepping back from the game as well. Tesco, WH Smith and Game have all stopped selling prepaid Habbo cards. How much of an impact that will actually have on Habbo's bottom line is debatable, as only about 300,000 of its users are based in the U.K. and not all of them would use the cards, but it still reflects very poorly on the game.

"We were concerned to learn of Habbo Hotel allegations made in the C4 report," a WH Smith rep said. "We have taken this product off sale, pending further investigation."

Not everyone is thrilled with Channel 4's work, however, including at least some of the game's users. One of them said on Twitter than the show "just ruined a day for more than two million people," while another one asked, "What do pedos and your news reporters have in common? They both pretend to be little girls on the internet. Dumbass."

Source: The Guardian

Permalink

Habbo still exists?
Christ, I was on that when I was like, 10.

So let get this straight, to those users who are annoyed with Channel 4, do they want to be harass by the pedos at the expense of playing it? However in saying so if they choice to shut it down the pedos will simple go elsewhere.

And nothing of value was lost.

Scarim Coral:
So let get this straight, to those users who are annoyed with Channel 4, do they want to be harass by the pedos at the expense of playing it? However in saying so if they choice to shut it down the pedos will simple go elsewhere.

It could be that the people annoyed by Channel 4 are the pedos and perverts who beg to cam/skype with the players. I've never used Habbo but...this kind of news doesn't really surprise me. I wonder how many of these same pervs/pedos are also on the cartoon network MMO thing and other kids games.

I've seen a lot of hate being thrown at habbo hotel, almost to bieberish proportions, but 'rampant pedophile activity'? That one's new.

Scarim Coral:
So let get this straight, to those users who are annoyed with Channel 4, do they want to be harass by the pedos at the expense of playing it? However in saying so if they choice to shut it down the pedos will simple go elsewhere.

Well, let's be very cynical and honest about one thing: Shutting something down isn't going to make the problem go away. Well it will, but it'll pop up elsewhere in seconds. If you look for it long enough you'll always find some traces of pedo activity in internet things dedicated to children under 12. There was a similar report about a chatbox of a station for children's television around here.

The report however also was honest enough to show some responses by children, which were overwhelmingly consisting of finding it just odd, hitting block buttons a second after, and not seeming too bothered with it. It also showed the extraordinary amount of checking the small station was putting into trying to track such things.

All in all, I'm of the opinion that warning children about the form such pedo activity takes is infinitely more effective than looking accusingly at the places where it happens. I'm sure Channel 4's made a very nice sensationalistic piece of television about it, and I'm sure their crew's been able to get some 12-14 year old trolls talking, maybe even some latent pedophiles, but is this really the response we need?

I'd much rather see parents not being either unknowing or in panic about the problem. Just tell your child to hit whatever button, blocks, bans, reports or signs off if it happens and everything will be alright. The danger is in forbidding your child from going on the internet and similar symptom-fighting approaches. That just makes it unknown, dangerous and exciting, and all the more appealing.

shameduser:
And nothing of value was lost.

Your avatar is perfect for what you just said.

Scarim Coral:
So let get this straight, to those users who are annoyed with Channel 4, do they want to be harass by the pedos at the expense of playing it? However in saying so if they choice to shut it down the pedos will simple go elsewhere.

Well maybe they're annoyed because C4's 'investigation' had a lot of gaping holes in it, and was pretty much just scare-mongering for the sake of ratings/traffic. Which appears to have worked.

NinjaDeathSlap:

Scarim Coral:
So let get this straight, to those users who are annoyed with Channel 4, do they want to be harass by the pedos at the expense of playing it? However in saying so if they choice to shut it down the pedos will simple go elsewhere.

Well maybe they're annoyed because C4's 'investigation' had a lot of gaping holes in it, and was pretty much just scare-mongering for the sake of ratings/traffic. Which appears to have worked.

I'll be honest, myself and a friend immediately created an account after watching the report (we're in the UK). Posing as a 12 year old girl, we were chatted up within 10 minutes by a guy claiming to be 27.

Everyone was talking about executing a DDOS attack on the channel 4 site. As if they even knew what that entailed. it was pretty funny.

Pedophiles also buy newspapers, overpriced printer ink, and stamps. Perhaps WHSmith should shut themselves down as they're just encouraging pedophiles.

Especially with their half price candy with any purchase.

Also, Channel 4 show kids' shows in the morning, ideal stuff for a pedophile who owns a TV to attract children into his home, Channel 4 should stop broadcasting to save the poor children from being abused.

Or... they could all fuck off.

Pedophiles exist, they're also in a tiny, tiny minority. Give your kids some basic advice about not going to stranger's homes or cars without telling their parents first, and we can safely go about our day.

Reminds me of when FOX reported the DS as 'a tool for pedophiles', in that it could be used to pass on the name and address and phone number of a child to a pedo. You know, a bit like a pencil.

Come back to me when Habbo Hotel has DLC of naked child avatars and maybe we'll open this case again.

Just to get this straight, if there were pedos approaching me in WOW, I'd record the chat, take screen grabs, and report them to Blizzard and maybe the police, if I felt I had enough evidence.

I would not take this as 'Blizzard support anal rape of children'.

Call me cynical, but if there's anything TV and the media get excited about more than 'celebrities' it's pedophilia.

When someone pretending to be 12 gets hit on by someone pretending to be 27, has a crime been commited, or are there just a lot of freaks online who get off pretending to be different people?

In the end, we shouldn't be shocked that an online area that attracts children also attracts those who prey on them, however, there's ways to deal with it that doesn't involve just going 'WAH ITS SCARY!', but of course, when's the last time sensible, rational reactions got prime time TV slots.

I am not a pedo apologist, I just think that maybe we should educate kids and parents about online safety, rather than just saying something is an evil den of filth. After all, Habbo closes down, where are the kids going to go that's entirely safe from predators?

Well, this is the big issue between security and privacy. You have to decide which is a greater evil, the pedos doing this stuff, or the suerveillance and actions needed to stop it.

I've long been a proponent that age limits need to be enforced on MMOs to keep kids out of T and M rated games (including MMOs), and privacy should be expected and enforced. However when dealing with child-specific MMOs there should be no expectation of privacy and the people running it should be constantly on the look out for these kinds of things.

The problem of course being that MMOs exist to make money, children by their very nature don't have a lot of money to sink into MMOs, and as a result something has to be done to market these things to adults. The only other alternative being to say... try and trick kids into "accidently" spending Mommy's credit limit on Smurfberries.

HABBO has been criticized for quite a while for being a pedo-haven, right up there with something called "Furcadia". Even going back as far as the old Habbo Hotel raids, you'll notice that the old "rules" were not only to have the classic guy in a suit with a 'fro but also to logon as a Loli which says a bit (sites like Encyclopedia Dramatica have covered it)... and to be honest it's just gotten worse over the years. I doubt the lack of apparent enforcement or attempts to change things is a coincidence, since it's probably the adults wanting to meet up with kids that are spending most of the money. To be honest after some of the exposes on Second Life, I wouldn't be surprised if we one day found out that Habbo's own GMs login and play/pretend to be sexually active little kids to make money and keep people logging in and spending money. From what I was reading such virtual pedo-prostitution was a big business on Second Life for a while until there was a crackdown.

That said, not selling the cards doesn't seem like it's going to accomplish much. Personally if things have gotten as blatent as described, it might be time for an Interpol sting of sorts, and hopefully the establishment of some precedents as a result.

Some of you might be saying "OMG Theru, your insane" but really, Habbo is old news to me. Indeed the whole "Pool's Closed due to Aids" thing was from the first major Habbo raid.

SenseOfTumour:
Reminds me of when FOX reported the DS as 'a tool for pedophiles', in that it could be used to pass on the name and address and phone number of a child to a pedo. You know, a bit like a pencil.

Man, I love you now, for reminding me of this:

http://penny-arcade.com/2007/02/09/the-most-recent-catastrophe

While driving on the highway, a child molester who is also driving might look into the back seat of your car and see your child using their DS back there. According to this terrifying report, the child molester can then - while driving their car - produce a DS of their own and utilize it to divine your home address. You will recall that he is driving on the highway at speeds approaching sixty miles an hour. One hand is on the wheel and the other is managing the gearbox. Thus, there can be no question.

He is entering these messages into the DS with his erect phallus.

Also, does anyone remember "toothing"?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toothing

When BlueTooth was released there were people convinced - convinced - that it would result in a deluge of people arranging casual hookups by pinging each other's BlueTooth phones.

That last quote in the article is pretty funny. What do they think they're trying to say? That the reporters are paedos? Sounds like they would rather use the service unwittingly talking to paedos rather than have them exposed. They're the dumbass.

Brad Shepard:

shameduser:
And nothing of value was lost.

Your avatar is perfect for what you just said.

Glad I wasn't the only one thinking this.

In other news, read a good comment somewhere saying 'pedo-activity' is including normal teenage raging-hormone-time, so yup. Take that for what its worth

If people took the time to properly educate their children about the dangers of the internet this wouldn't be so much of a problem. I had no one to teach me how to use the internet safely and I didn't get molested.

Of course these kinds of things will attract paedophiles. Like flies are to shit. You have to expect them and be ready to deal with them, whether it be through advice or active moderation.

Whats the bet that in 10 years time, news outlets will be reporting that pedos are trolling in WoW?

It'd be funny to see them try to pose as pedos in games like CoD, MW and Halo.

Is this pretty exclusively a UK thing? I mean, FOX news has been constantly hammering on how evil and malicious combat games are, but the investors and retailers only put more of it up as a result. One thing on one news channel completely altered an investor's plans? No, I think not, they were going to sell that stock regardless and this was a good public excuse to do it.

Therumancer:
That said, not selling the cards doesn't seem like it's going to accomplish much. Personally if things have gotten as blatent as described, it might be time for an Interpol sting of sorts, and hopefully the establishment of some precedents as a result.

No, see, those places stopped selling the cards because they don't want to be associated with that company, not because they're actually directly concerned about the situation.

Scarim Coral:
So let get this straight, to those users who are annoyed with Channel 4, do they want to be harass by the pedos at the expense of playing it? However in saying so if they choice to shut it down the pedos will simple go elsewhere.

There is a chance that Channel 4 made up the controversy from whole cloth, or to some degree manipulated events so that their undercover reporter had something juicy to report, and that this false representation has angered users who were deprived of something they enjoy for something that never happened to them and they believe has never happened with any regularity deserving attention.

There is also, however, a chance that users are just acting like gamers and being unreasonable towards people who made a honest criticism of something they enjoy because they refuse to act like anything other than children who had their candy taken away.

The truth, as usual, is probably somewhere in the middle.

More evidence that children under 14 shouldn't have webcams; if they have to use a computer with a webcam, the cam should be password-protected. It would make it just that bit harder for children to expose themselves at the request of a paedophile.

man that game is OLD no wonder is now a pedo cess pit

I bet someone could find some kind of science equasion on time + online game = cess pit

Im fairly certain everyone on that site is over 25

The Random One:

Scarim Coral:
So let get this straight, to those users who are annoyed with Channel 4, do they want to be harass by the pedos at the expense of playing it? However in saying so if they choice to shut it down the pedos will simple go elsewhere.

There is a chance that Channel 4 made up the controversy from whole cloth, or to some degree manipulated events so that their undercover reporter had something juicy to report, and that this false representation has angered users who were deprived of something they enjoy for something that never happened to them and they believe has never happened with any regularity deserving attention.

There is also, however, a chance that users are just acting like gamers and being unreasonable towards people who made a honest criticism of something they enjoy because they refuse to act like anything other than children who had their candy taken away.

The truth, as usual, is probably somewhere in the middle.

Channel 4 News has a tendency towards being "bombastic", but they and the Channel 4 investigative documentary shows Dispatches and Unreported World are the best sources of accurate reporting in the country. They're not infallible of course, no organisation is, but Opinion is less prevalent than in the pages of the Guardian; they moderate their urges towards sensationalism better than Sky, Channel 5, or the tabloid rags; and they are less likely to indulge in the mindless false-equivalency seen on the BBC in the name of "balance"(for example, Channel 4 News is the only news source in this country where I've seen a panel discussion on climate change that consisted of a climatologist, and another climatologist with a differing viewpoint).

I've not seen this report myself so I can't speak to it specifically, but going by past experience, I'm willing to bet this is a case of a mildly sensationalised news story with a pretty unassailable factual foundation being seized on by retailers as an excuse for their actions which were really taken out of raw fear at the prospect of being seen within fifty yards of the word "paedophile" and on that basis alone becoming the subject of the Daily Heil or the Sun's latest vacant moralistic crusade.

is club penguin just as bad?

Once upon a time in high school, I was encouraged by a friend to play Habbo Hotel. I'm absolutely not surprised by Channel 4's findings. Anyone with half a brain knows that place is a scummy hive of horny, socially-awkward teens (or pedos) soliciting potential socially-awkward girls to show their goods on a webcam. And let's not forget the infamous 4chan raid... Pool's Closed.

And so the demise of Habbo begins.... About time!

Habbo has always been a breeding ground for pedo's and weirdos. Anywhere where a lot of kids congregate online will be full of them.
I suppose it's only use now is to catch predators. The people who are butthurt need to grow up and join a community that isn't full of lonely old freaks.
There's better ways to meet people online than dodging a creep every 5 minutes.

"Habbo is full of pedophiles"

ಠ_ಠ

Didn't we already know this? Like 5 years ago? When Habbo should have closed.

Well we already knew how easy it is for people with **ahem** another agenda to break into Habbo. I mean Habbo might have survived a bafflingly long time but I know in my heart the pool will always be closed.

To be fair, those people that were asking for webcam shows most likely aren't pedophiles, they're just sex-starved 13-year-old boys with no social skills.

Though yeah, there are lots of pedophiles around. Which really isn't all that surprising, really.

xyrafhoan:
Once upon a time in high school, I was encouraged by a friend to play Habbo Hotel. I'm absolutely not surprised by Channel 4's findings. Anyone with half a brain knows that place is a scummy hive of horny, socially-awkward teens (or pedos) soliciting potential socially-awkward girls to show their goods on a webcam. And let's not forget the infamous 4chan raid... Pool's Closed.

Yeah, the 4-chan raids and pedophilia have been notorious parts of Habbo Hotel for YEARS. Frankly I think it's good that it's finally being brought to the attention of the general public.

ReservoirAngel:
To be fair, those people that were asking for webcam shows most likely aren't pedophiles, they're just sex-starved 13-year-old boys with no social skills.

Though yeah, there are lots of pedophiles around. Which really isn't all that surprising, really.

Well if you think about it, that's the flaw in the researcher's findings - she is, I assume, not a child, so someone asking her for cybersex isn't paedophilia. And how old was the person asking her to strip? Can a 13 year old be called a paedophile? I don't doubt there is a lot of "grooming" going on, but they picked a lousy way to examine it.

It reminds me of IMVU, which largely consists of horny teenage men with female avatars, having lesbian cybersex with other horny teenage men with female avatars. I doubt children even get a chance to use that site.

The only real way to solve this problem and EVER establish a MMOG aimed at minors is to have reliable age verification for them, for example though schools or other government agencies (parents' social security, etc). Not that that wouldn't sound shifty in a million different ways either, but it would be better than the alternative.

Well, besides not making a MMOG aimed at that demographic at all.

Lopunny:
I'll be honest, myself and a friend immediately created an account after watching the report (we're in the UK). Posing as a 12 year old girl, we were chatted up within 10 minutes by a guy claiming to be 27.

...who - let's face it - was probably actually a 12 year old boy! ;)

With regards to the report, saying that you got asked to strip on a site populated by teenagers is really not surprising. When given the safety of the internet (where the scary girls can't laugh at them directly), a lot of teenage boys will see how far they can get!

More generally, social websites will always have a few dubious characters on them. But trying to eliminate those dubious characters (and provide a "safe environment" for kids) is looking at the problem the wrong way around. My parents never worried about the sites I was on because they invested time stamping a few golden rules into my head:

1. Never tell anyone your real name, address or phone number.
2. Never send photos of yourself to anyone.
3. Webcams are only to be used with schoolfriends.
4. If anything anyone says makes you uncomfortable, tell us immediately.

Which is all really just an extension of the "never get into a stranger's car" talk. I'm not sure why parents now seem to be more worried about what might happen to their children online (where they can just leave the chat room) than about what might happen to them walking to school (where they can be bundled into a car and driven off to god-knows-where).

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