Disney has ordered unauthorised copies of its Club Penguin game to close, after the BBC found children were being exposed to explicit messages. Visits to fan-run Club Penguin Online surged during the coronavirus pandemic with more than a million new players. But racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and sexual messages flow freely on the unauthorised platform. Disney said it was "appalled" by the website, and has ordered it to close or face legal action. One man involved in the site has been arrested on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children. Disney's Club Penguin was one of the first social networks for children. Launched in , it had more than million players at its peak. While anybody could join the original website, content filters and human moderators were employed to stop inappropriate messages or personal information from being shared.
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Club Penguin was a massively multiplayer online game MMO , involving a virtual world that contained a range of online games and activities. Players used cartoon penguin- avatars and played in a winter-set virtual world. After beta-testing , Club Penguin was made available to the general public on October 24, ,  and expanded into a large online community , such that by late , it was claimed Club Penguin had over 30 million user accounts. While free memberships were available, revenue was predominantly raised through paid memberships, which allowed players to access a range of additional features, such as the ability to purchase virtual clothing, furniture, and in-game pets called "puffles" for their penguins through the usage of in-game currency. The success of Club Penguin led to New Horizon being purchased by the Walt Disney Company in August for the sum of million dollars, with an additional million dollars in bonuses should specific targets be met by The game was specifically designed for children aged 6 to 14 however, users of any age were allowed to play Club Penguin. These features included offering an "Ultimate Safe Chat" mode, whereby users selected their comments from a menu; filtering that prevented swearing and the revelation of personal information;  and moderators who patrolled the game. On January 30, , it was announced that the game would be discontinued on March 29, The game was replaced by a successor, titled Club Penguin Island which itself was discontinued the following year.
It had a public Beta Testing in August , and was officially launched on October 24, It was later bought by Disney in August It involved a virtual world , where the players were penguins , and was featuring a large range of minigames and other online activities , and was based on a snowy island , after which the game was named. Club Penguin has been noted as sharing similarities with other popular browser-based online environments such as RuneScape and Habbo Hotel , such as the use of an in-game currency to purchase virtual items and pets, named " puffles ". The game was specifically designed for players within the ages of however all ages can play , thus child safety was a vital responsibility of the game's developers. There were over ,, penguin accounts created and played in over countries.