Omegle, a chat service that pairs users with a random person so they can talk via text or video, is shutting down. Leif K-Brooks, who launched the service when he was 18 years old, announced its closure and talked about its humble beginnings, as well as how it grew organically because “meeting new people [is] a basic human need.” While he didn’t delve into the specific reasons for Omegle’s shutdown, he admitted that “some people misused [the service], including to commit unspeakably heinous crimes.”
Critics have raised concerns about the website’s safety over the past years, with some even calling it a “magnet for pedophiles.” In 2021, an American woman sued the website for pairing her with a person who coerced her into sending explicit images for three years, starting when she was just 11 years old. Her legal team said that the way the platform works allows it to become a “hunting ground for predators.” Last year, two men in the US were sentenced to federal prison for exploiting children they met on apps, including Omegle, forcing them to perform sexual acts and to send them explicit photos and videos. A BBC investigation also revealed a rise in cases of users exposing themselves on Omegle chat. These users included minors, because while the website is technically meant for use by people 18 and older, it has no age verification in place.
In his farewell note, K-Brooks said he worked with law enforcement agencies, as well as “the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to help put evildoers in prison where they belong.” His website, he said proactively collected evidence against these people and tipped authorities to put them in jail. However, he said the fight against crime is “a never-ending battle” and that the “world has become more ornery” in recent years. He also said that there’s been “a constant barrage of attacks on communication services… based on the behavior of a malicious subset of users.”
In the end, he found the “existing stress and expense of operating Omegle, and fighting its misuse” to no longer be sustainable, both financially and psychologically. “Frankly, I don’t want to have a heart attack in my 30s,” he added.