TikTok bans sharing Omegle links following child safety concerns
18 February 2021, 17:40
Omegle allows users to chat with complete strangers anonymously.
TikTok has banned linking to social media platform Omegle following concerns over underage sexual content.
YouTubers and TikTok stars like KSI, Charli D'Amelio, James Charles and Emma Chamberlain have been found to use the social media platform, which has started blowing up on TikTok. The Omegle hashtag on TikTok currently has 9.4 billion views.
There are concerns over the safety of the app for children and teens. A BBC investigation found boys aged 14 masturbating in front of strangers. During the 10 hours that the BBC monitored Omegle, they were paired with several people under the age of 18, with some appearing to be as young as seven or eight. And, during just one two-hour period, they were shown 12 masturbating men, eight naked men and seven porn adverts.
What is Omegle?
Omegle is a free social media platform that allows users to chat one-on-one with strangers anonymously. The users don't share their personal information with each other and, when paired with another user, you're simply identified as "You" or "Stranger 1".
Video chats are also available on the platform for people 18 and over, however, it's easy for underage users to pretend they're older because there is no verification process in place. Users can decide to have their conversations monitored or unmonitored, but of course, when having unmonitored conversations it's possible that you'll be exposed to inappropriate content.
The lack of regulation and age verification on the platform has started to cause widespread concern. One parent in the UK said her eight-year-old daughter was asked to "shake her bum, take off her top and trousers" by an older man on the website. Thankfully, she did not.
A spokeswoman from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the US told the BBC: "The speed in which you found possible child sexual abuse material should underscore the necessity of age verification on social media platforms."
Omegle founder Leif K Brooks told the BBC that moderation efforts had been increased in recent months because of the concern surrounding potential predators. He also blocked a keyword which generated the underage masturbating video, however, they were unable to verify this.
In an email statement, he said: "While perfection may not be possible, Omegle's moderation makes the site significantly cleaner, and has also generated reports that have led to the arrest and prosecution of numerous predators."
He added: "Omegle isn't intended for prurient interests, and when adults visit Omegle with that intent, it makes sense to direct them somewhere more suitable."
As a result of the investigation, TikTok have now decided to ban sharing Omegle links. Luckily, TikTok's safety teams didn't find any harmful Omegle content on its platform but they said they would continue to monitor the videos.