Children’s website Habbo Hotel ‘puts its 250m users at risk because it has few defences against paedophiles’. Habbo Hotel, one of the most popular online communities for teenagers, is flooded with pornographic content and is a haven for paedophiles, it has been claimed.
Ten million youngsters who use the site each month could be putting themselves at risk
Two paedophiles who used the site to lure under-age victims jailed in UK since December
Spokesman for site defends moderation policy but child safety expert warns of dangers
It is meant to be an online safe haven where children can socialise and feel safe.
But the virtual reality of the world’s largest social game and online community for teenagers is also attracting a different, less well-meaning audience.
Habbo Hotel – in which users can, according to the site ‘make friends, chillax, (and) get noticed!’ – is also a hotbed of pornographic sexual chat between users.
Tesco and WH Smith have now withdraw Habbo gift cards
Visitors to Habbo Hotel are often exposed to messages of a sexual nature minutes after logging on, an investigation by Channel 4 News found.
Channel 4 News producer Rachel Seifert spent two months using the site posing as a 13-year-old.
‘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,’ she said.
‘Within two minutes I was being asked individually “do you have a webcam?”, “can we chat on 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.’
And with the site designed for children as young as 13 – but also frequently used by those who are much younger – many children are being put at risk by paedophiles who are using the site to contact their victims.
One of the conversations that was on there
VICE: Hey, I heard you like jailbait?
ilovejailbait: Yes I do.
What do you say to people who don’t share your love for jailbait?
I say they’re intolerant and xenophobic.
Who are they xenophobic against?
OK. Do you have a preferred age of jailbait?
Boys or girls?
I am a straight male.
How old are you?
Do you have a girlfriend?
Have you ever?
Did they know you like ten-13-year-old girls?
No, it’s more something I keep to myself as it is frowned upon by most people.
Yeah, it is. Do you ever meet up with other jailbait lovers and love jailbait together?
On the internet. Yes I do.
Am I likely to find a lot of paedos on Habbo?
No, this is a teenage-oriented game.
But you’re here, declaring your love for children. Are you really 16?
Yes I am 16, and I hardly think I am declaring anything.
Your name is ‘ilovejailbait’.
I do like jailbait and I am here to cause trouble.
Do you masturbate to pictures of ten-13-year-old girls?
No, because I do not *****
You don’t masturbate?
What is wrong with that?
Nothing, I guess. Are you sexually attracted to ten-year-old girls? Also, who’s your favorite political figure, dead or alive?
I am sexually attracted to some. My favorite political figures are Vladimir Lenin, King George, and John Curtin.
Is there a famous person you find attractive?
Habbo Hotel paedophile jailed
In December 2011, Matthew Leonard, 21, from Billericay, Essex was jailed for seven years for a string of online child sex offences on Habbo Hotel.
And the former sports coach admitted to using ‘Habbo Hotel’ to contact the majority of his 80 victims, the youngest of whom was just ten years old.
After luring his victims with the offer of free virtual ‘furniture’ – which children using the site decorate their hotels with – Leonard moved his discussions to web camera, where he recorded his victims carrying out sex acts.
The case largely went unnoticed at the time – but an investigation by Channel 4 news has revealed the extent of the potential dangers to children using the site.
A producer for the company who spent two months using the site found that beneath the apparently innocuous purpose of the game, chats and interactions of an overtly sexual nature were occurring frequently.
‘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.’
The company has also issued an updated warning to users of the site, reminding them that any conversation ‘simulating sex’ and web cam requests are strictly forbidden.
It also tells users children to ‘keep your pals in pixels’, but in spite of the warnings, there are concerns that the self-regulation of the site could be putting children at risk of danger.
Another court case from February – in which a paedophile was jailed for using Habbo Hotel to target underage boys also highlighted the dangers of children roaming free on the internet.
Alex Nicholson, 24, from Tyne and Wear was sentenced to two years in prison and banned from children’s sites for ten years in February after he admitted engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child after contacting youngsters on the site.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that Nicholson convinced underage youngsters to chat with him via webcam after meeting them on the Habbo Hotel site, before carrying out sex acts upon himself in front of his victims online.
Habbo’s main feature is the “Hotel”, and consists of a client made using Adobe Flash technologies. The Hotel can be accessed by logged-in users via the Habbo Homepage. When a user accesses the Hotel they are brought to a screen colloquially known as Hotel View. From this screen, members can contact one another via the Habbo Chat, which acts as the main form of communication throughout all areas of the Hotel, and use the Navigator to navigate their way to a chat room. Originally, communication was conducted through the Habbo Console, which was recently replaced by Habbo Chat and by Habbo Mail, which is accessible via the Habbo Homepage.
Public Rooms are rooms which are available to all members. They often depict scenes such as restaurants, cinemas, and dance clubs. Most Public Rooms contain automated robots which shout pre-recorded messages and can give members drinks and food items. Public rooms are designed by Sulake and are not customizable by users.
Febuary 2012 – Pervert targeted boys via website Habbo Hotel
A PERVERT has been jailed for sex offences against boys he met while trawling a children’s chatroom.
Alex Nicholson sobbed when he was sent down for two years and barred from using youngsters’ websites for 10 years.
The 24-year-old, of Westbourne Drive, Shiney Row, befriended two 12-year-old boys on the popular Habbo Hotel site, where children can adopt and play with virtual pets.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Nicholson convinced the boys to chat with him via webcam, where they would then be exposed to sickening live footage of him committing a sex act on himself.
Nicholson was caught when the mother of one of the boys, who were friends, turned on the family computer where her son had accidentally left himself logged on to the MSN internet portal.
Using the screen name “Axel”, Nicholson carried out a lewd act after persuading her to switch on the webcam, believing he was talking to her son.
The son and his friend were then spoken to by the police.
Prosecutor Amanda Rippon told the court: “One boy said he had been visiting children’s chatroom Habbo Hotel, where children can adopt pets and dress in funny clothes.
“This man had been in there. That is how he first made contact.
“The second boy explained when he had gone to the children’s chatroom, the defendant had adopted him and his friend and said ‘I love children’.”
Nicholson was arrested and officers found 63,000 pornographic images on his computer, 442 of which were indecent images of children.
He told police he “got turned on by children having sex,” and admitted he had been having an illegal relationship with a 15-year-old boy.
The court heard Nicholson had filmed himself engaging in sexual activity with the boy, who agreed to what was going on despite him being too young to give his consent.
Judge Roger Thorn jailed Nicholson, who sobbed throughout the hearing, for two years.
The judge said: “I take your demeanour to be showing, as clearly as anyone could, your remorse, shame and guilt for what you have done.
“All that said, your offending here is of an alarming nature.”
Nicholson admitted engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child, engaging in sexual activity with a child and making and producing indecent images of children.
Jamie Adams, defending, said Nicholson is a “very, very vulnerable person”.
Mr Adams added: “He knows it is not right to have behaved the way he had, but the very fact he recognises that is a massive step.”
Nicholson also has to register as sex offender and abide by a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, which bans him from children’s websites – both for 10 years.