Omegle, an online chat service that billed itself as an anonymous forum to “talk to strangers,” has shut down amid allegations it served as a hotbed for criminal activities.
In a lengthy statement Thursday, Omegle founder Leif K-Brooks said the service is closing because combating misuse of the platform is “no longer sustainable, financially nor psychologically.” In recent years, Omegle has faced a slew of lawsuits alleging the platform, which connected people via text and video chat, became a breeding ground for sexual harassment and facilitated the sexual exploitation of minors by pairing underaged users with sexual abusers.
“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,” Brooks said in the statement.
The website shut its anonymous chat function Thursday.
Omegle, founded in 2009, rapidly rose to prominence, becoming a mainstay of 2010s internet culture alongside similar anonymous chat services such as Chat Roulette. Since its launch, the platform had racked up tens of millions of monthly visitors, Similar Web data shows. However, that popularity made the platform a magnet for bad actors whose conduct posed profound content moderation challenges for the company.
“There can be no honest accounting of Omegle without acknowledging that some people misused it, including to commit unspeakably heinous crimes,” Brooks said in the statement.
Rampant misuse of Omegle spurred several lawsuits against the service, including one in which lawyers alleged the chat service paired an 11-year-old girl with a sexual predator, a court filing shows. Omegle settled that $22 million civil suit last week, Gizmodo reported.
“By failing to take action to prevent predators from carrying out these crimes against helpless children on Omegle and failing to cure its negligent design and manufacture, these predatory users felt empowered and incentivized to continue their abusive and malicious use of the product,” a lawyer alleged in the complaint.