Habbo Hotel investor pulls out over pornographic content claims
The main investor in Habbo Hotel, the forum website aimed at teenagers, has withdrawn after an investigation found the site was being used for sexually explicit messages.
The private equity firm 3i, which has a 16 per cent stake in Habbo, said the revelations were "challenging" and announced it would be resigning from the site's Finnish parent company Sulake.
In a statement, 3i said: "3i has actively supported the Sulake board in determining the right course of action in these very challenging circumstances.
"Following a board meeting today, we have resigned our board position and will cease to be a shareholder in the company."
The decision was announced after a Channel 4 News investigation described the website as a "Mecca" for paedophiles.
Reporters using the site found they were urged by other users to undress in front of a webcam within minutes of logging on.
Child safety experts said the website, which has 250 million users, was failing to do enough to moderate the site against inappropriate content.
John Carr, a child safety consultant, said: "A moderator should be jumping in right now as it's not hard to see where this is going before it gets a lot worse. This is very worrying and going in a very bad direction."
It was also reported that high street stores including Tesco and WH Smith were withdrawing Habbo Hotel gift cards.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Channel 4 News producer Rachel Seifert said her experience of the website, which was launched in 2000, was "sinister".
"I was shocked by the highly-sexualised, explicit conversations being held in public for all to see but the private messages which I soon started to receive were even more sinister," she said.
Research by Channel 4 News also found a recently convicted paedophile had used the site to groom young girls. Matthew Leonard, from Billericay in Essex, was jailed for seven years.
Habbo Hotel announced it would "mute" its network in the wake of the investigation.
“Habbos, due to the challenging behavior of a few users we have decided to mute the site and will update you when we have more information,” it said via Twitter.
Habbo Hotel is aimed at children over 13. It has its own currency, discussion forums and interest groups, as well as chat facilities.