Habbo faces pornography allegations
Children’s social network Habbo Hotel is facing damage to its brand reputation and backlash from partners following a Channel 4 News investigation that alleges sexually explicit content is being posted on the site.
The investigation found that the site, which attracts more than 10 million users a month, was allowing users to post pornographic and violent messages – despite the fact that Habbo members are not meant to be over 13 years of age. Channel 4 News says it has passed the “perverse” and “graphic” findings of its investigation to the government.
The report, which is already available on Channel 4 News’ website in text form, will be aired on tonight’s (12 June) programme.
If the allegations are found to be true, this could have a detrimental effect on Habbo’s user numbers and also revenues associated with the number of brands that pay to advertise with the site. One of its partners includes children’s charity helpline Childline.
Retailers including Tesco, WH Smith and Game also stock pre-paid Habbo cards allowing consumers to buy friends gifts of credits, which can be used to buy virtual goods on the site.
All of the above brands have been contacted to ask whether they will cease their associations with Habbo. Game said it would not comment on the situation, while the other brands had not responded to requests for comment at the time of going to press.
Sulake, Habbo’s Finnish parent company has responded to the allegations by posting a blog post from its CEO Paul LaFontaine explaining the measures it takes to keep its young users safe.
The CEO has also asked concerned users, parents and other members of the public to contact him via tweet for more information.
LaFontaine told Marketing Week via Twitter: “I am focusing on delivering a constructive response to the investigation and to ensure Habbo continues to provide a safe environment.”
In February 2012 Sulake said it would be making 25% of its workforce redundant as it looked to “modernise” its strategy. Habbo is reportedly working on opening up its API to developers to allow them to create additional services for the social network.