Video chat service Omegle shuts down following years of user abuse claims
This photo, in New York, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023, shows the Omegle logo, and their website posting on a mobile phone. Omegle, a video chat service that connects users with strangers at random, is shutting down after 14 years following ample misuse of the platform particularly the sexual abuse of minors. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
The Associated Press
Published Thursday, November 9, 2023 4:15PM EST
NEW YORK (AP) - Omegle, a video chat service that connects users with strangers at random, is shutting down after 14 years following ample misuse of the platform - particularly the sexual abuse of minors.
In a lengthy statement announcing the site's closure, founder Leif K-Brooks reflected on how Omegle was meant to connect people worldwide and “build on the things I loved about the Internet.” But, he added that a dark side of the platform emerged.
“Virtually every tool can be used for good or for evil,” Brooks wrote. “There can be no honest accounting of Omegle without acknowledging that some people misused it, including to commit unspeakably heinous crimes.”
Over the years, Omegle has faced significant scrutiny for becoming what some say is a breeding ground for child pornography and other abuse. The site's closure arrives about a week after Omegle settled a lawsuit that accused the platform of pairing a then 11-year-old user with a sexual predator, according to court records.
The suit, which was filed in an Oregon court in 2021, is a piece of a long chain of similar litigation that Omegle has faced. According to the BBC, the platform has been mentioned in more than 50 cases against pedophiles in the last two years.
“Operating Omegle is no longer sustainable, financially nor psychologically,” Brooks wrote. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who used Omegle for positive purposes, and to everyone who contributed to the site's success in any way. I'm so sorry I couldn't keep fighting for you.”
Brooks founded Omegle in 2009 at the age of 18. In addition to claiming millions of daily users over the years, recordings of Omegle videos are shared widely on YouTube and social media platforms like TikTok.
As of Thursday morning, the Omegle website remained live with Brooks' statement, but its online video chat function was no longer visible.