Omegle shuts down after 14 years amid abuse allegations | Science and technology news

Omegle, the video chat site that paired strangers, has been shut down after allegations of abuse against users.

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

The site has been named in more than 50 cases against pedophiles in the past few 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 promoting “social spontaneity”, the premise was that you could chat with a stranger for as long as you wanted and leave the chat whenever you wanted.

Mr. Brooks highlighted positives—soulmates meeting, people talking across cultural divides, alleviating loneliness—but also encountered the site’s lows.

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

“As much as I wish the circumstances were different, the stress and cost of this fight – combined with the existing stress and cost of running Omegle and fighting abuse – is simply too much.

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

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Omegle is being sued by a US woman who claims she was matched with a pedophile when she was 11 and forced to be his online sex slave for three years.

Omegle’s legal team argued in court that the website was not at fault.

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

Omegle also worked with police to “help put bad guys in jail,” he said.

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

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