Why did Omegle shut down? What to know about child sexual abuse … – The Arizona Republic

You may have seen on your X feed that Omegle has shut down. The free online anonymous chat service has been around since March 25, 2009.
On Wednesday, Nov. 8, the site was replaced with a statement from founder Leif K-Brooks that Omegle had closed down.
In the statement, K-Brooks discussed his interest in learning and debating with others, how the internet provided a place he felt safe as a survivor of childhood rape and the original goals of the site.
“I launched Omegle when I was 18 years old, and still living with my parents,” K-Brooks said in the statement. “It was meant to build on the things I loved about the internet, while introducing a form of social spontaneity that I felt didn’t exist elsewhere. If the internet is a manifestation of the ‘global village,’ Omegle was meant to be a way of strolling down a street in that village, striking up conversations with the people you ran into along the way.”
The site reached millions of daily users.
So why did Omegle shut down?
Omegle was a free online chat service where you could join without needing to register or provide age verification. The site would pair users up randomly for one-on-one chat sessions.
These chats could last as long or as short as you wanted. If you chose not to talk to someone, you could just end the chat and move on to a conversation with someone else.
Founder K-Brooks said in a statement on the website that Omegle started to be misused by some in order to “commit unspeakably heinous crimes.”
While the site tried to improve safety for users, in the end K-Brooks said the stress and expense of running the site was just too much.
“Unfortunately, what is right doesn’t always prevail,” K-Brooks said in the statement. “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. Operating Omegle is no longer sustainable, financially nor psychologically. Frankly, I don’t want to have a heart attack in my 30s.”
The misuse K-Brooks referred to was the sexual abuse of minors. The platform faced a lot of scrutiny for being a breeding ground for child sexual assault material and other abuse, according to the Associated Press.
The closure comes after Omegle settled a lawsuit in which it was was accused of setting an 11-year-old up to chat with a sexual predator.
According to the BBC, Omegle has been mentioned in more than 50 cases against accused pedophiles in the past couple of years.
K-Brooks made the site anonymous because he thought this would help chats be more self-contained and less likely that someone with malicious intent could track another person down after the chat ended.
There also was moderation behind the scenes, K-Brooks said, using “state-of-the-art AI” alongside a team of human moderators.
He said Omegle worked with law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to put criminals in prison.
However, concerns about sexual abuse of minors through the platform persisted.
Reach the reporter at dina.kaur@arizonarepublic.com. Follow @dina_kaur on X, formerly known as Twitter.
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