The internet is full of bastards. Since the dawn of online communication, extremists of one kind or another have been hiding out in the cubby holes of the internet, lurking in the shadowy corners of the web and forming horrible opinions about the world as they tug away at themselves with the blinds shut.
Yesterday (March 21st), The Sun claimed that it had found some of these people, reporting that Islamic extremists have been using “online war games like Call of Duty to plot terror attacks”. Allegedly, CoD's private, unmonitored in-game chat network is the perfect place for would-be terrorists to "blue sky" strategies for domestic Jihad. The police can't get near them, although "a source” at The Sun had no problem securing this information.
I was keen to discover if extremists really are taking over the virtual world, or if, as I suspect, the internet merely allows people to act like dickheads without fear of reprimand. So, I started in a place that seemed like the natural choice for anyone looking to cook up another 9/11 or 7/7: Habbo Hotel (or simply "Habbo", as it is now known).
Once the cradle of choice for people who'd made it to their teens still scared of the world, Habbo is a virtual planet of 'rooms' which you can explore and chat in at your leisure. It's more than ten years old now, but Habbo still lures in over ten million users a month. Here's what I look like on there:
And, just to show you how accurately the game mirrors "real life", here's me checking out the buzzing "Occupy Habbo" room:
As I was looking for extremists, I thought the obvious place to go would be the “Habbo International Airport”. I found someone named "hilmiextrem", so I interrogated them.
I was out of luck. Soon, though, I noticed a grey-haired man in a shirt and tie lurking around the airport lounge. His name was “ilovejailbait”. I approached him.
ilovejailbait's profile "motto" was: "I love little girls they make me feel". He might not have been a Jihadist, but, in their own way, paedophiles are extremists too right?
Weary on his pervert legs, he took a seat and, like two travellers thrown together by air traffic delays or hurricane weather, we sparked up a conversation – a lot of which involved me half-heartedly grilling him for hints of sincerity. The text on the grabs is hard to read, so here are some highlights:
VICE: Hey, I heard you like jailbait?
ilovejailbait: Yes I do.
What do you say to people who don't share your love for jailbait?
I say they're intolerant and xenophobic.
Who are they xenophobic against?
OK. Do you have a preferred age of jailbait?
Boys or girls?
I am a straight male.
How old are you?
Do you have a girlfriend?
Have you ever?
Did they know you like ten-13-year-old girls?
No, it's more something I keep to myself as it is frowned upon by most people.
Yeah, it is. Do you ever meet up with other jailbait lovers and love jailbait together?
On the internet. Yes I do.
Am I likely to find a lot of paedos on Habbo?
No, this is a teenage-oriented game.
But you're here, declaring your love for children. Are you really 16?
Yes I am 16, and I hardly think I am declaring anything.
Your name is 'ilovejailbait'.
I do like jailbait and I am here to cause trouble.
Do you masturbate to pictures of ten-13-year-old girls?
No, because I do not *****
You don't masturbate?
What is wrong with that?
Nothing, I guess. Are you sexually attracted to ten-year-old girls? Also, who's your favourite political figure, dead or alive?
I am sexually attracted to some. My favourite political figures are Vladimir Lenin, King George and John Curtin.
Is there a famous person you find attractive?
What music do you like?
Country and heavy metal.
You listening to anything right now?
Yes, “Hello Walls” by Willie Nelson.
Nice. Who's your favourite metal band?
Alice in Chains.
“Yeaaah, they came to shoot the rooster! A-yeaaah!” I love that song. What kind of food do you eat?
That's a good song. I like any food.
Do you like Alice in Chains because you're a paedo?
Why are you such a paedo mate?
I'm not your mate.
So, there you go. Habbo Hotel, an old as fuck, semi-abandoned social network for teenagers is currently acting as a training ground for up-and-coming sexual predators. Oh, and just to corroborate the theory that the internet is a blackhole of depravity, perpetually chewing up goodness and farting out evil, any Sun journalist reading this might also like to know that, in a room called “Uganda”, I found Joseph Kony.
Whaddya know, he's a homophobe too. You're right, The Sun, the world really is a terrible place to live in.
Follow Josh on Twitter: @joshuahaddow