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Warning: this story contains disturbing adult themes.
A BBC investigation into the increasingly popular live video chat website Omegle has found what appear to be prepubescent boys explicitly touching themselves in front of strangers. Omegle links up random people for virtual video and text chats, and claims to be moderated - but has a reputation for unpredictable and shocking content.
Global child protection groups are increasingly concerned about predators using the site to gather self-generated child sexual abuse material. According to new research collected by data analyst Semrush, Omegle grew globally from about 34 million visits a month in January to 65 million chats people January On TikTok alone, videos tagged with "Omegle" have been viewed more than 9.
TikTok told the BBC that, as a result of our investigation, it had now banned sharing links to Omegle. The company says its safety teams have not found any harmful Omegle content on its platform but would continue to monitor the videos. It should be better monitored.
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It's like the dark web but for everyone. In the last six months, many schools, police forces and government agencies have issued warnings about the site in the UK, US, Norway, France, Canada and Australia. During the approximately 10 hours that we monitored Omegle, we were paired with dozens of unders, and some appeared to be as young as seven or eight. Omegle's disclaimer states that users should be 18 or over, but there is no age verification process in place.
During just one two-hour period, we were connected at random with 12 masturbating men, eight naked males and seven porn adverts. There is also the option to find matches based on interests, for example "football" or "movies".
When we inputted one generic keyword relating to adult material, we were paired even more frequently with people engaging in explicit activity. We were also paired at random twice with what appeared to be young prepubescent boys masturbating live on the video chat.
These instances were not recorded, and we ended both chats swiftly before reporting them to the authorities. A spokeswoman from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the US said: "The speed in which you found possible child sexual abuse material should underscore the necessity of age verification on social media platforms. Mr Brooks, the website's owner, says he has now blocked the use of the keyword, but the BBC has not been able to verify this.
The Internet Watch Foundation IWFwhich is responsible for finding and removing images and videos of child sexual abuse online, said the of our investigation were troubling but followed a recent trend. There are conversations that you can hear, even children being asked to come down for tea.
One parent in the UK who we spoke to said her eight-year-old daughter was nearly coerced into sexual activity with an older man on the website. She told the BBC: "My daughter had seen some videos go viral on TikTok about people being on this Omegle, so she explored this site and there's no log-in or age restrictions or anything.
She told them she was only eight years old and they were OK with that. She witnessed a man masturbating and another man wanted to play truth or dare with her. This sort of site has to take its responsibilities seriously. What we need to do is have a series of fines and even potentially business interruption if necessary, which would involve the blocking of websites which offer no protection at all to children.
He said his site was moderated and that his team did block users who "appear to be under 13". He also claimed that the site's porn adverts were age-restricted but would not give details about how that was possible without age verification. He described these explicit pornographic as "discreet" and said showing them was a "classic 'life gives you lemons' situation".
Children engaging in sex acts
Children engaging in sex acts. One of them identified himself as being 14 years old. There is no way to contact Omegle through its website or elsewhere online. Tracking down Leif K Brooks. Mr Brooks has not spoken publicly about Omegle for several years.
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After six s to a separate company he co-founded - Octane AI - he finally responded. He also said in an that he had expanded monitoring efforts in Mr Brooks did not respond to any further questions. Related Topics. Social networks Social media.