Policing and Protecting the Habbo Community – a Message from the CEO
Speaking as a CEO, it’s an incredibly rewarding job to have responsibility for an online community like Habbo. Our site provides a forum for millions of young people from across the world to share views, interests and ideas through the characters they create. The freedom to explore the site and freely interact with other users is one of the reasons why we are one of the most popular online destinations for teenagers; there have been more than 265 million Habbo users in total and up to a further three million users join each month.
To keep users safe, we filter content and block inappropriate users. We also employ more than 225 moderators, tracking some 70 million lines of conversation globally every day on a 24/7 basis.
We work with child safety organisations and local police forces to address inappropriate behaviour. Habbo’s leading safety systems were recognised as making the service one of the safest social networks in a 2011 European Commission report. Last year we were also awarded the commendation of ‘Safer by Design’ from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
Alongside the time and resource we invest to ensure that Habbo is one of the safest online communities, we also encourage our users to take responsibility for reporting any abuses on the site. This is why we provide education and rapid-response support to users who may experience uncomfortable conversations.
Through a combination of active moderation and user empowerment, we remain confident that we can continue to deliver the opportunity for our users to engage and communicate in a free but responsible manner.
We have included below some further detail on how we work behind the scenes to ensure our site users have a positive experience in a safe environment. For more information or to contact me directly, you can find me on Twitter @PaulLaFo.
What is Habbo?
Habbo is a well moderated online community targeted at users no younger than 13 years of age. We safeguard against entry to the site by younger users by asking all users to state their exact age during the registration process.
Once in the site – as in all comparable virtual spaces – teens chat, role play and test boundaries in ways they may not with their friends and families in real life.
Any online community that allows users to assume virtual identities may be open to abuses, which is why we work hard to keep users safe, filtering content and blocking inappropriate users. We also provide education and rapid-response support to users who experience uncomfortable conversations.
How do you go about protecting the safety of site users?
Habbo’s comprehensive moderation and safety system and was recognised as one of the safest social networks in a 2011 European Commission report.
Habbo’s moderation and safeguarding procedures:
- Habbo employs more than 225 moderators, tracking some 70 million lines of conversation globally every day on a 24/7 basis. These moderators cover all time zones and the multiple languages in which Habbo users converse.
- Habbo filters links to black-listed sites.
- Habbo’s automated monitoring technology detects inappropriate language and sends automatic calls for help.
- Habbo collaborates closely with law enforcement bodies around the world to report threatening and inappropriate user behaviour.
- Habbo discusses user security measures with external bodies and governmental organisations involved in youth safety.
Facilities to ensure site users are able to protect themselves:
- Users have access to privacy settings that can limit other users accessing their profile or seeing when they are online.
- Users can prevent others from sending friend requests, or prevent others from following them inside Habbo.
- Users have access to education on the limits of appropriate behaviour.
- Users can mute other players’ chats and remove players from their private rooms.
- Users can immediately report inappropriate discussion to moderators, using the site’s rapid response function.
Apart from actively moderating the site and empowering users to behave in a safe and responsible manner, what else is Habbo doing to promote the child safety agenda?
As well as our work within the Habbo online community, we actively contribute to campaigns like Insafe and Safer Internet Day on relevant user safety issues.
Currently we collaborate in more than 30 charitable partnerships around the world to educate teens about a wide range of topics including safe Internet use, the dangers of drugs, bullying etc. Partners include NSPCC (ChildLine), Unicef, the Red Cross, Child Right, Power Child as well as many other market specific organisations.
Alongside these charitable partnerships, we have been involved in various EU safety initiates:
- In 2008 Sulake signed an ‘EU Safer Internet Principles’ document, outlining the safety and security Sulake uses in Habbo. The assessment can be found here.
- In autumn 2011 Habbo was recognised as one of the safest social networks by the European Commission report.
- We are one of the signatories in the CEO Coalition for making the Internet a Better Place for Kids.
- Last year we were awarded the commendation of ‘Safer by Design’ from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
Why should young people interact on Habbo instead of – for example – Skype or MSN?
One important difference between Habbo and some other social sites and tools is that user identities remain concealed and users cannot share content apart from their conversations.
This means that if our users do encounter uncomfortable conversations during their time on the site, they are not exposed to inappropriate images or able to share their own inappropriate images within the Habbo community.
We actively work to keep users from moving away from our online community into less-well regulated environments.
How does Habbo manage to moderate so much content in so many languages?
To keep users safe, we filter content and block inappropriate users. To accomplish this we employ more than 225 moderators, tracking some 70 million lines of conversation globally every day on a 24/7 basis.
Moderation coverage has been optimised by moving towards employee-outsourcer collaboration. Our direct employees provide guidance to professional services organisations, meaning that we are able to deliver 24/7 coverage and rapid-response service across all the languages in which our users converse.
As part of our own employment procedures and the professional services agreement entered into by our outsource partners, criminal record checks have been undertaken on all employees involved in moderating the site.
The collaboration between direct employees (including the twelve employees based in our London office) and outsourcing companies delivers a comprehensive and consistent level of moderator coverage across geographies and languages. More recently, we have also enabled users to moderate each other, supporting our ambition to provide a free but responsible conversational space.
How does the senior management team keep in touch with what is happening on the site?
As the CEO of Sulake, the company that owns and manages Habbo, I routinely spend time on the site, directly engaging with users.
This helps me to better understand the benefits and challenges of the online community we operate. It also helps me to ensure that the company is investing sufficient care and attention in the safety of our users.
As with all our users, if I encounter inappropriate behaviour on the site, I have access to a rapid-response service from a moderator who bans or mutes the offending user.