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U.K. Retailers Drop Habbo Cards

| 13 Jun 2012 21:22
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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

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