News and Views from Paul LaFontaine

Friday, Jun 15, 2012 / Writer: Paul LaFontaine, CEO

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the many concerned parents who have been following the news in recent days. Our commitment to the future of the Habbo community is also a commitment to working with the parents of our site users. We believe that a comprehensive safety programme can only be delivered by close collaboration with users and parents together. 

As soon as we saw the Channel Four News report on Tuesday evening, we took the decision to mute all conversations across the site. This has had a massive business impact, but the safety of our users is non-negotiable. We must maintain our focus on the quality of interaction within the Habbo community, and not the quantity of visits we receive.

Since conversations on the site were muted, we have experienced an unprecedented online response with thousands of loyal users remaining active on the site, holding a silent candle-lit vigil to express their support for Habbo. During this time, senior management and world leading technologists are working tirelessly in our Helsinki headquarters to ensure that we deliver the best possible protection to the millions of teenagers and young people who regularly visit our site.

We want to work with our users to define and deliver a fully protected environment as well as a creative user experience. That’s why I am announcing “The Great Unmute”. It’s going to provide a chance for our users to create a conversational tidal wave, telling us what they want and showing the world that our global community contains millions of responsible and proud users who have a positive experience on our site. More details will follow in the coming days.

We would like to thank Channel Four for initiating a global debate around this incredibly serious issue. It has provided a global wake-up call for both my company and our poorly regulated industry and we fully intend to actively participate in finding a regulatory solution that will protect our users and ensure the long-term reputation and future of the social gaming community.

However, I do not condone the recent practice of journalists contacting Habbo users and offering cash to share any inappropriate interactions they may have encountered on the site. If there are individuals who have been affected by inappropriate conversations, they may well be vulnerable and certainly will not benefit from self-interested approaches and offers of cash for case studies. We want to create a comprehensive and constructive response to our current challenges and send out a call to action for improved safety standards across the online gaming community. Petty attempts to generate more bad news are distracting us from the job at hand.

Please be assured that I will come back with fresh news just as soon as I am able.