Codebreaker

Habbo’s doors may re-open ever so slightly

Marc Sanchez Jun 18, 2012


We told you last week about the online game Habbo Hotel, where minors run around a virtual hotel, chat, and decorate their rooms with ephemera. The game decided to shut down its chat feature due to creepy pedophiles posing as kids and luring users into real world meet ups. Habbo, which is owned by a bigger online game maker called Sulake, is now planning on opening chats back up in order to get a better feel for a new direction.

The BBC spoke to Sulake’s honcho, Paul Lafontaine:

In a statement, Mr Lafontaine said the muting of chat on the site had led many of its millions of users to stage silent vigils in Habbo Hotel rooms to express their support.
The Great Unmute would let these loyal users tell Sulake which direction they wanted to see the site take and help shape the forthcoming protection systems, he said.

In the wake of the Habbo problem and online flirting app Skout, which also just shutdown a version of its software aimed at minors, the New York Times takes a look at how difficult it can be to verify a person’s age online.

The answer, it turns out, is very hard. Despite attempts by privacy advocates, academics, law enforcement officials, technologists and advertisers to determine a person’s age on the Internet, the reality is that, online, it is extremely difficult to tell whether someone is an 11-year-old girl or a 45-year-old man.

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