Disney has ordered all unauthorized clones of Club Penguin to be shut down after a fan-run clone was found by the BBC to be exposing children to explicit messages.
Once upon a time Disney's Club Penguin was a popular digital hangout for kids. It seems some fans have missed the original so much that they made their own server of the game, using stolen or copied source code. These clones are relatively easy to find online, with even children finding their way onto the servers. This is where the issue lies, as the nature of this particular Club Penguin clone was not suitable for children at all.
As the BBC reports, Club Penguin Online was not as strict. They found a less family-friendly cartoon Arctic where players engaged in "penguin e-sex" and some servers disabled content filters: "One player invited the BBC to their igloo, which was decorated to spell out the n-word".
The BBC used multiple accounts to investigate the claims and found examples of racist, homophobic, and anti-Semistist language being used, along with the sexual role play.
In response, Disney has issued copyright notices to all private server games hosting the Club Penguin clones, giving them a strict deadline to close or face legal action from Disney.
In a statement, the company said, “Child safety is a top priority for the Walt Disney Company and we are appalled by the allegations of criminal activity and abhorrent behaviour on this unauthorised website that is illegally using the Club Penguin brand and characters for its own purposes. We continue to enforce our rights against this, and other, unauthorised uses of the Club Penguin game.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, population numbers for online games have boomed, and Club Penguin Online was no exception. That brought it to the attention of Disney's lawyers, and a DMCA was sent last week. It's now offline and, the BBC notes, "One man involved in the site has been arrested on suspicion of possessing child abuse images."
The original Club Penguin servers were shut down in 2017. While the franchise had a number of spin off games, nothing ever compared to the original MMO. For over 12 years Club Penguin was the place to hang out with your friends after school and chill out as chubby penguins together. The MMO saw over 200 million players at its peak and is still held in the hearts of many as a vital part of their childhood.
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