I guess with all the shootings in the past year, this story escaped my notice. But what else is new, right?
Anyway, our ‘favorite’ random video chat site Omegle is facing a lawsuit. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, Omegle is not an app, as many news outlets report. It’s a website where people with webcams are connected to random people to chat with. The only age check on Omegle is a banner that says the chats are monitored, and a small blurb that says you must be 18 to use Omegle or be 13 with the permission of a parent.
The lawsuit states that an 11-year-old girl was matched with an adult male who allegedly sexually abused her. Typically, in lawsuits like this, platforms like Omegle would be protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. (Ancient in internet years.) Section 230 essentially states that platforms aren’t responsible for the content that users post and publish. This is the same Section 230 that Backpage infamously hid behind when it was continually sued for facilitating human trafficking. The FOSTA-SESTA Act, which was signed into law in 2018, made it so platforms used for trafficking couldn’t hide behind Section 230 anymore.
However, the lawsuit filed against Omegle is not being prevented by Section 230. Instead of accusing Omegle of being responsible for user content, they’re being sued for not having any safeguards in place to prevent minors from being matched up with adults. While this doesn’t necessarily mean the lawsuit will be successful, it does mean it has cleared a major hurdle that prevents many similar lawsuits.
If you’re a long-time reader, you probably know what’s coming next, my Omegle rant to parents. Omegle is not an app! It’s an everyday run-of-the-mill website that can be accessed through any internet enable device with a web browser. If you want to know if your kids have been on Omegle, check their browser history and not their apps list. Even though Omegle’s terms of service states a user has to be at least 13 with a parent’s permission, there is nothing actually preventing any child from using the platform.
As I’ve said many times in the past, if you’re letting your kids wander through the internet unsupervised on sites like Omegle, you’re basically giving predators an open window to your children’s lives.