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Controversial random-pairing chat site Omegle shuts down

Gelo Gonzales

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Controversial random-pairing chat site Omegle shuts down

OMEGLE. A cartoon image of a tombstone denotes the chat app's end

Screenshot from Omegle website

The popular site is mired in controversy related to child sex crimes, racism, and far-right abuse, leading to its founder Leif K-Brooks announcing its shutdown

MANILA, Philippines – Omegle, the popular free video chat site that randomly paired strangers, has shut down, Thursday, November 9, 14 years after it went live in March 2009.

Instead of the usual interface, Omegle.com now shows a letter from its founder, Leif K-Brooks, announcing that the service is shutting down, saying it is “no longer sustainable.”

He said, “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.”

K-Brooks described “a constant barrage of attacks on communication services, Omegle included, based on the behavior of a malicious subset of users” related to the site’s policies and practices. 

The founder praised his moderation team, saying it punched above its weight, with the help of AI, and that the platform has been helpful to law enforcement. However, he said that while he has “always welcomed constructive feedback,” the recent attacks on the site “have felt anything but constructive.” 

“The only way to please these people is to stop offering the service. Sometimes they say so, explicitly and avowedly; other times, it can be inferred from their act of setting standards that are not humanly achievable,” K-Brooks said.

The site grew in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, with people locked down. But its rise also led to an increase in child luring and sextortion cases, with the site allegedly becoming a central tool

The site was sued in 2021 for a case involving an 11-year-old that was paired on the site with a man in his 30s, leading to alleged sex crimes. A similar case happened in Australia in the same year. 

The site has also been criticized for the racism and white supremacist abuse that had existed on the service. – Rappler.com

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Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.