Club Penguin Online, one of the largest Club Penguin fan servers, shut down Friday after The Walt Disney Company issued a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice. However, there were bigger problems with that game than copyright infringement.
The Club Penguin Backstory
Disney purchased Club Penguin in 2007 and shut it down in January 2017 after it became unpopular. They released the short-lived Club Penguin Island, which also shut down by the end of 2018 after fans’ criticism. Club Penguin Online was an unlicensed revival of the popular children’s social network and one of the largest replicas of the games, used by over 8 million people over the last two years.
In a blog post, Club Penguin Online wrote that the game would no longer be running after May 2020 as a result of the copyright claim, The Verge reports. The blog has since been removed, along with the website. Their biggest competitor, Club Penguin Rewritten, was also mentioned in Disney’s claim but is still online.
“If anyone does try to revive the game, it’ll be extremely difficult now as you’ll have to worry about Disney, and in all honesty, it isn’t worth it,” the admin wrote in the deleted blog.
The Problematic Network
As mentioned, Club Penguin was a popular social network for children. However, there were more than kids on the site.
BBC News investigated the network and found that Club Penguin Online wasn’t moderated by staff, leaving it full of racist, anti-semitic, and sexual content. By creating accounts on the English, Spanish, and Portuguese versions of the fan server, they found that content filters had been disabled site-wide. They also described another practice found on the site — “penguin e-sex” — where players sent and received explicit messages.
Players were also openly sharing personal details, such as their other social media account details and passwords to Zoom “meet-ups.”
BBC reports that a London man involved with the server was arrested on suspicion of child pornography. That said, there is not an established connection between the arrest and lack of moderation at this time.
Disney told BBC, “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.”