May 23, 2024

Sexual Abuse Claims Force Omegle to Shut Down

A lawsuit from a female sexual abuse survivor has forced Omegle to shut down after 14 years of connecting people online.

The popular live video chat website, which was known to connect strangers anonymously, has been accused of having a flawed and negligent design that allowed the aggressor to abuse the victim. The decision to shut down the website was reached as a part of a legal mediation between the plaintiff and the defendant.

The platform’s founder, Leif Brooks, has alleged that some users committed “unspeakably heinous crimes” on Omegle.

The video chat service, which had skyrocketed in popularity among children and young people in recent years, has been mentioned in numerous cases of sexual abuse.

What Exactly Led Omegle to Shut Down?

The woman, who was identified as “A.M.”, in the case, sued Omegle in 2021 for enabling her sexual abuse as a minor. According to the lawsuit, she was only 11 years old when Omegle matched her with a man in his 30s in 2014. The man reportedly forced her to take nude photos and videos, continuing to abuse her for three years.

Omegle settled the court case just a week before shutting down on Wednesday.

Carrie Goldberg, an attorney representing the plaintiff, said, “The permanent shutdown of Omegle was a term negotiated between Omegle and our client in exchange for Omegle getting to avoid the impending jury trial verdict”.

At the time of this report, neither Omegle nor any of the attorneys representing the company responded to requests for comment.

In the US, Section 230 protects social media platforms broadly from the liability of any content posted by their users.

In this case, however, the judge ruled that Omegle’s design was at fault since the site could have prevented sexual exploitation of minors by not matching minors and adults in the first place. This put Omegle outside of the scope of protection offered by the act.

Omegle’s Long History with Sexual Abuse Cases

Omegle matched its users randomly with anonymous video chat partners. While the website gained a lot of popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic by helping people overcome loneliness, it has also been a subject of controversy for years.

Launched by Leif Brooks in 2008 as a means to help users meet new people online, Omegle had more than 73 million monthly visitors.

Plenty of people online have shared experiences of facing predatory and sexual behavior on the platform. In the last couple of years alone, Omegle has been mentioned in over 50 cases of sexual abuse against minors.

With teens flocking to the website in recent times, it became a common hunting ground for pedophiles looking for easy pickings.

As many as 608,601 cases of child exploitation on Omegle were reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline in 2022. In August 2023, a man found guilty of making minors undress on Omegle and recording them was sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment.

Even the lawsuit by A.M. that brought Omegle down originated from a $22 million lawsuit that alleges that her abuser had saved thousands of sexually exploitive pictures of minors.

There can be no honest accounting of Omegle without acknowledging that some people misused it.Leif Brooks, Omegle founder

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