oh•meg•ull) is a free online chat website that allows users to socialize with others without the need to register. The service randomly pairs users in one-on-one chat sessions where they chat anonymously using the names "You" and "Stranger". The site was created by 18-year-old Leif K-Brooks of Brattleboro, Vermont, and was launched on March 25, 2009. Less than a month after launch, Omegle garnered around 150,000 page views a day, and in March 2010 the site introduced a video conferencing feature.
Type of site
|Country of origin||United States|
|Created by||Leif K-Brooks|
|Launched||March 25, 2009|
Comparisons have been made to early-1990s AOL.
According Brooks, "I was working on a different project before omegle, and it kept breaking due to an error from a third-party service it used. The error code wasn't documented and I wanted a name for it, so i nicknamed it "error code omega" because it was sort of apocalyptic. Omegle was eventually named after that."
During late 2019 and early 2020, Omegle criticized the Chinese Communist Party, and expressed support for the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests, and added an image of the American Flag on the front page with the words "Xi Jinping sure looks like Winnie the Pooh" over it.
The initial rules stated that a 13-year-old could use the website with the permission of a parent or guardian. On 6 October 2022, the rules were updated so that only those 18 or older were allowed to use the website.
Omegle has been subject to a variety of controversies, generally surrounding illegal content, discrimination, pornography and use of the site by minors.
Prior to early 2013, the site did not censor contributions through a profanity filter, and users have reported encountering nudity or sexual content on camera. After January 2013, Omegle implemented a "monitored" video chat, to monitor misbehavior and protect people under the age of 18 from potentially harmful content, including nudity or sexual content. However, the monitoring is not very effective, and users can often skirt around bans. To complement the monitored video chat, Omegle also has an "unmonitored" video chat that is not monitored for sexual content. K-Brooks has acknowledged the questionable content of the site, at one time expressing disappointment at the way in which the site has been used.
Omegle and other random chat websites experienced a surge of popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and an increase of popular YouTube and TikTok social influencers using the website. This has also caused increase of minors using the website. Numerous advisories, bulletins and warnings have been issued by both local and state law enforcement, as there have been major increases in reports of cyber-crime involving sexual exploitation of minors occurring on Omegle due to the popularity surge.
Omegle has been recently subject to controversy surrounding allegations of discrimination and alt-right content. The issue of racism in particular prevails on the site, as does the issue of "redpilling", where users troll and harass minority groups and attempt to recruit new followers of their ideology. Users who are "redpilling" may do several things, including shouting "white power" and perform a Nazi salute, mocking someone's appearance, yelling slurs or asking questions about someone's ethnicity or religion.
In 2020, two teens conducted an experiment concerning racism on the site. They entered terms such as "BLM", "KKK" and "racist" to match with users. They reported that a significant amount of users made racist remarks.
In 2020, a TikTok user named Johan Bradley posted a video in which two teenage boys referred to him as a "nigger" and a "slave" and made whipping noises. The pair were students of Shoreham-Wading River High School in Shoreham, New York. The school district's superintendent said that disciplinary action would be taken against the students.
In 2020, the Anti-Defamation League began an investigation into antisemitism and far-right trolling on Omegle. An Australian white supremacist and former YouTuber named Philip Hedley (who used the name "CatboyKami") popularised the site in far-right circles after he attended a "Stop the Steal" rally in Phoenix, Arizona. He has promoted conspiracy theories and far-right extremism on Omegle, as well as on platforms such as BitChute, Discord and Telegram, including a video of him mimicking the murder of George Floyd. He uses slurs in content and often wears costumes and makeup (including blackface) to mock other ethnic groups. In 2021, ABC News journalist Alex Mann identified Hedley as Tor Gustafsson Brookes and revealed that he is from Ipswich, Queensland. Another prominent white supremacist on the site is Paul Miller, a Florida-based user from New Jersey who commonly dresses as the Joker and the Riddler. As the Riddler, he says: "Riddle me this before you go. I'm loud and obnoxious. I like music that rhythms. I'm a fraction of the population but commit half the crimes. What am I? I'm a nigger!" and then laughs hysterically. Canadian white supremacist Brendan Martinez also uses the site for trolling and redpilling using a feature where users add their interests. Instead of adding his interests he adds terms such as "BLM" or "Biden".
Omegle has been subject to numerous controversies over child pornography.
Omegle is currently facing a $22 million lawsuit which was filed in 2019 in Oregon, in regard to a former user of the site who became a victim of child sex exploitation. In 2014, the then 11-year-old plaintiff logged onto Omegle and encountered a Canadian pedophile who blackmailed her into digital sexual slavery. The lawsuit alleges that Omegle knowingly allowed the pairing of minors with pedophiles due to a splash screen warning that stated "Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful". Omegle has since removed this warning from the website.
In 2020, a Canadian teacher was arrested at his home in Guelph after he broadcast child exploitation material on Omegle. He would plead guilty to several criminal charges in 2022.
In 2021, an Australian man was arrested at his home on the Central Coast of New South Wales after he allegedly used Omegle to advertise his search for child sex.