Online ‘hotel’ for sexual predators

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iol scitech june 14 Habbo Hotel Reuters An image of the Habbo hotel, part of a Finnish virtual hotel chain, is shown in this undated handout photograph.

London - Habbo Hotel, an online game popular with teenagers, contains “very sexual, perverse, pornographic and violent” content, an undercover investigation revealed.

The findings have led to one of the website’s biggest investors pulling out. The virtual world, which has more than 250 million registered players aged between 13 and 18, allows users to create virtual characters and furnish their own digital hotel room.

But a Channel 4 News producer, posing as a 13-year-old, discovered Habbo Hotel is playing host to highly sexual exchanges.

Rachel Seifert, who spent two months on the site, said: “The chat was very sexual, perverse, violent, pornographic. It was very graphic. Within two minutes I was being asked ‘do you have a webcam?’ I was also asked to strip fully naked.”

The producer played the game 50 times - and on each occasion had similar experiences.

John Carr, a child safety expert and consultant, who played the game with the producer, had a similar experience. He said: “If I was a parent of an 11-year old girl on this site, I would want there to be a moral panic.”

The venture capital firm Balderton said it had decided to drop its stake in Habbo’s owner, Sulake. Sulake chief executive Paul LaFontaine said the company would act quickly to remedy any lapses in user security. He added: “We already filter content and block inappropriate users. We have increased the number of moderators and strengthened our automated filtering.” - Daily Mail

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