Defunct Disney kids’ portal Club Penguin, which at its peak had 200 million users and a full staff, has seen an unofficial revival during the Coronavirus lockdown, and Disney isn’t happy at some of the content being shared.
The social networking MMORPG and its successor “Club Penguin Island” were popular with kids across the world, before the plug was pulled on both in 2018.
However, recent months have seen a rise in ‘private servers’ hosting new versions of Club Penguin, with none of the safeguards and security features of the original. Swear filters have been disabled, and the original human moderators have not been replaced, leaving the new site as a more or less free-for-all.
An entire igloo complex made to spell out racist slurs, and promises of ‘e-sex hookups’ were among the bad language and explicit images on the site, and high on the list of things Disney doesn’t like. On a sidenote, even if you were to ignore all the very good reasons this is an awful place for kids, it was particularly inappropriate, as most penguins mate for life, making the whole thing factually inaccurate.
Other players requested nude photos with still more spreading anti-semitic and anti-islam disinformation. Somehow, some players even managed to hold strip shows.
One UK-based server was alleged to be hosting indecent images of children, leading to arrest on suspicion of possession of said images for its owner. Many parents will be oblivious that these new versions of Club Penguin aren’t official, bringing home the potential danger of leaving them online unfettered.
Disney has ordered the immediate shutdown of all these private servers on copyright grounds. In a statement to the BBC, the company was rightly upset.
“Child safety is a top priority for the Walt Disney Company and we are appalled by the allegations of criminal activity and abhorrent behavior on this unauthorized website that is illegally using the Club Penguin brand and characters for its own purposes.”
At time of writing, there are still a number of servers online for both the original and ‘island’ incarnation. Disney will likely need to bare its teeth further to get them removed, if they haven’t complied by the time the [unstated] deadline has passed.