Habbo owner Sulake has issued a statement today announcing its plan to reintroduce chat channels and instant messaging within the virtual world that offer better protections for teens that frequent it against pedophiles. A report from British TV's Channel 4 detailed how pedophiles were using the service to engage youngsters in lewd and suggestive conversations.
Sulake CEO Paul LaFontaine said in a statement that Habbo will become a "protected democracy" with greatly increased moderation and policing designed to protect youngsters from sexual predators. The plan comes on the heels of the company's "great unmute," which provided the company with negative and positive responses from users.
"The initial response to The Great Unmute was much larger than we could have predicted and it took some time to deploy additional servers to get the site running smoothly," said LaFontaine in a statement. "We received a high number of submissions over the six hour period, many of which are still being moderated. This was always intended to be a forum for legitimate users and – although we will not be moderating the main site in the same way – the blocking of inappropriate conversations is a sign of things to come for Habbo."
LaFontaine went on to say in the statement that the company plans to release "more than 10,000 thoughtful, balanced opinions from our responsible users," adding that his team has read all the responses and have encouraged "parents and anyone else involved or concerned to do the same."
"The content generated by The Great Unmute will inform and direct my long term plan for the Habbo community, already in advanced draft form. When I finally allow the online community to speak again, it will be an era of 'Protected Democracy'. By that, I mean a regulated environment that protects the free speech, as well as the safety and interests, of the legitimate user community. I understand these interests better because of The Great Unmute."
LaFontaine closes by saying that this new concept is a pioneering step in an industry that he admits is "poorly regulated" and that the functionality of the virtual world will be turned back on it phases to make sure the changes work. The first live tests of the system are taking place in Finland now.
Source: GamesIndustry International