Omegle, the free video and text chat site that lets users talk to strangers online, has officially shut down following claims of abuse and misuse. In a cryptic message shared by the Founder, Leif K-Brooks explains that the psychological and financial burden operating of Omegle and fighting against its misuse have become unsustainable. He adds, “Frankly, I don’t want to have a heart attack in my 30s.”
Founded in 2009, Omegle provided an anonymous way for people to “meet” strangers online. The platform randomly paired users in one-on-one chats where they would primarily engage in conversations on a range of topics.
The platform resurged almost eight years later during the COVID-19 pandemic, gaining popularity with teenagers. The increasing interest among celebrities due to the lockdown as a way for them to interact with fans made it the place to be for “Gen Z” influencers. According to the BBC, the hype would see videos on TikTok tagged with “Omegle” get viewed 9.4 billion times in 2021 alone.
However, features that made it appealing to teenagers also attracted predators on the site. The anonymity, not requiring any registration to chat with users coupled with the lack of age restriction made it an unsafe place for kids. Despite Omegle’s disclaimer that users should be over the age of 18, there was little to no enforcement in place. This resulted in TikTok banning links to the video chat platform following the rising abuse claims.
Leif K-Brooks claims Omegle had measures in place to protect children against indecent exposure and acts while on the platform. This includes the basic safety feature of anonymity and content moderation, incorporating both human and AI systems to monitor and moderate content on the platform. Leif adds that through its content moderation, Omegle cooperated with law agencies and even helped with convictions.
However, these actions have not been enough and with the increased scrutiny from regulators around the world on social media platforms, Omegle has no option but to shut down.