eSafety notes the statement from Omegle that it has shut down.
Founded in 2009, Omegle was a video chat service that connects strangers online. By the platform’s own admission, its services were being used by paedophiles to groom and abuse children. There should be no spaces anywhere where such crimes are freely allowed to occur, including online.
Last year, Omegle stated in response to a legal notice from eSafety under the Online Safety Act that it employed only 3 moderators for video chat and 1 moderator for text, despite regularly having as many as 40,000 simultaneous users.
The notice was issued in relation to the Basic Online Safety Expectations, a key element of systemic new powers granted by the Online Safety Act. They work alongside new codes and standards to increase transparency, accountability and safety in the technology industry. eSafety published its findings in December 2022.
In response to the notice, the platform also revealed:
- There were no measures in place to prevent children communicating with adult users they did not know.
- There was no in-service option to report abuse.
- There was no age assurance or age verification at the time of the notice.
We were pleased that after our notice last year, Omegle added a pop-up asking users to confirm their age, which provided some warning to children of the risks on the service. We also note that in some areas Omegle was taking more action than larger services with more resources, including using some automated technology to detect sexual content. However, these measures were insufficient to properly address serious safety concerns the platform posed.
Those larger services, and many others, can do more. Action is needed by all of them to protect children and others through Safety by Design. All of industry must step up to tackle risks on their services, which can be particularly significant with live video.