Back in 2017, Disney shuttered its online children’s title Club Penguin. However, “private” servers have kept the game alive using hacked and reverse-engineered code. Now, Disney has fired off a salvo of cease-and-desist orders ahead of a BBC report on the toxic behavior, highly explicit content, and other inappropriate activities found among several clones.
When Club Penguin was started in 2005, it was one of the first titles of its kind for kids, combining elements of social media and simple gameplay mechanics. At its peak, over 200 million accounts were active. Because the site was focused on children, there was a strong content moderation team in place to keep inappropriate messages and personal information from being shared. No such content moderation appears to exist for “Club Penguin Online,” the most prominent of the pirate servers.
Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, “Club Penguin Online” grew to over seven million active accounts. However, the BBC is reporting that sexually explicit and racially offensive messages were commonplace after they set up their account on that server and others like it. Account details for apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, Discord, and Zoom were reportedly shared openly.
It also seems that, in addition to scraping the original site code, “Club Penguin Online” also made the fatal mistake of keeping Disney branding present. Disney’s statement regarding the matter seems to be more concerned over the unauthorized use of logos than the behavior occurring on the site, and others like it.
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. We continue to enforce our rights against this, and other, unauthorized uses of the Club Penguin game.
At present, “Club Penguin Online” and presumably other pirate versions of Club Penguin are shut down.