Video chat site shuts down amid abuse claims

By John Mercury November 10, 2023

Omegle, the video chat site which paired strangers, has shut down following claims of abuse against users. 

The app saw a surge in popularity during the pandemic but has faced allegations it matched children with paedophiles.

The site has been mentioned in more than 50 cases against paedophiles in the last couple of years, according to the BBC.

It was launched by Leif Brooks from his parents’ house in 2009, when he was 18 – first as a text-based service, then a video chat.

Originally aimed at fostering “social spontaneity”, the premise was that you could chat with a stranger for however long you wanted, leaving the chat whenever you chose.

Mr Brooks highlighted positives – soulmates meeting, people talking across culture divides, alleviating loneliness – but also faced up to the site’s low points.

“There can be no honest accounting of Omegle without acknowledging that some people misused it, including to commit unspeakably heinous crimes,” he wrote in a blog post about the site’s closure.

“As much as I wish circumstances were different, the stress and expense of this fight – coupled with the existing stress and expense of operating Omegle, and fighting its misuse – are simply too much.

“Frankly, I don’t want to have a heart attack in my 30s.”

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Omegle is being sued by an American woman who alleges she was matched with a paedophile when she was 11, and was coerced into being his online sex slave for three years.

Omegle’s legal team argued in court that the website was not to blame.

Mr Brooks defended Omegle’s efforts to tackle bad actors in his blog post, saying the site “punched above its weight in content moderation”.

Omegle also worked with police to “help put evildoers in prison”, he said.

A BBC investigation in 2021 found children exposing themselves on the site, prompting TikTok to ban links to the website from its platform.

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