As a former WA Police Officer, sites like OMEGLE were a constant frustration, seeming to hide behind a disclaimer "Do not use if you are under 18." It seems that statement devolves the creators of any responsibility for the protection of their users. Especially if those users are children. Yes, kids should not be on these sites. I agree with that 100%, but does that mean if they are, whatever happens to them is excusable or "their own fault"? Of course not! But it seems many sites like this think completely the opposite. Instead responding in such pathetic sentences as; "Sorry, we are not responsible for our users!"
Omegle is a simple video chat website where you can interact cam to cam with anyone around the world. You can chat with as many people as there are in a particular session at any time. In the image above, there are 1900 strangers you can chat with cam to cam! And that is exactly how they advertise their site, "Talk to strangers"!! Pretty much exactly what parents have said NOT to do since time began. If you do not like the person you are chatting with, simply press escape and move to the next camera. The Omegle website can be stumbled upon by any Google search and it has no age verification or joining structure. You simple click on "Video chat" and away you go. But it is what many of these "strangers" are doing on the site that had me shaking my head.
Recently I participated in an experiment on Omegle, viewing 3 x 30 minute cam sessions. Utilising a method employed by many crime organisations across the world, the illusion presented was that of a female child and not an adult. Users therefore thought they were interacting with a 12 year old girl, instead of the adult investigator really in front of the camera. I was very surprised at what was being asked of a 12 year old girl. What I saw surprised me and raised many more questions than answers. The main questions being; How many adult males around the world are more than happy to sexually exploit a 12 year old girl for their own gratification? How many adult males show complete disregard for a child who is underage and clearly not supposed to be on such a site.
For 90 minutes, I watched 63 men between 19 to 50 years of age. 51 of them had sexually explicit conversations with this child. 27 were openly performing a sexual act, whilst another 7 were under blankets, clearly doing the same. They took no action to stop when seeing the age of the girl. In fact, they went straight into action to interact sexually with this child. 39 of the 51 males, openly asked this young girl to remove her clothing, to flash or to enter into similar sexual acts, even though she was clearly a child. Many conversations were manipulative and coercive, solely aimed at taking advantage of a child for sexual gratification. Only 2 of these men left the chat after I said I was 12, all others continued their behaviour without concern. One man (above image), quoted as saying, "Sheeesh, I never thought of a 12 year old as hot." and "are you" horny? If any of this was to happen in a local shopping centre, these men would be arrested. So why should the fact that it is online be any different?
Why? Because there is nothing in place legally to empower such organisations to monitor their networks directly for such activity.
For the 90 minutes, so many times I wished I could just jump through the screen and march these men off to their local police station. Or perhaps grab them by the shirt and take them to their wife or mother and get them to explain exactly what they have been doing. But I couldn't! Why? Because the ability for me to do that is far from easy. This is not CSI Miami, where I can press the "enhance" button and find out exactly who these men are and where they live. Instead, I have to make a complaint to a site, that has little or no method of reporting. A complaint that has little chance of being acted upon and even less of a chance of being referred to local police, let alone international police. Hence the reason for my frustration and why I am trying to fight this seemingly impossible fight.
It is time the creators of such online playgrounds accept more responsibility to safeguard their environments. To actively patrol their networks for such behaviour and take real steps to report offenders to police in whichever jurisdiction they are living. It is my aim to push that change here and overseas and I hope I can count on your support to make that happen.