14-year old Michael (not his real name) from Scandinavia first visited Omegle, the video online chat that has become hugely popular since the start of the pandemic, after hearing about “unpredictable and weird encounters” one may experience on the site from other students in school. He was intrigued.
At the end of his “session”, however, he was worried.
The allure of talking to strangers and doing “stuff”
A couple of months ago, Malwarebytes Labs covered a BBC investigation into Omegle, wherein they found that young boys are exposing themselves on camera, and adult males are also exposing themselves to minors.
Michael, now 21-years-old, reached out to the media company after reading about their investigation in the hopes of sharing his disturbing experience, so other people could learn from it and start questioning who really is on the other side of the screen.
He had expressed doubts as to whether the first person Omegle paired him with—an older woman, he claimed—when he was 14 was what she claimed to be.
After quitting the site for several years, Michael, then 18, came back to Omegle and became addicted. “I started going on the site again and started doing ‘stuff’ on camera with different people. Video sex,” he said in a BBC interview.
Michael would later realize that at least one of his “sessions” was recorded. He was horrified to find that, after quitting the video chat site again for more than a year and coming back due to lockdown boredom, Omegle paired him to a recording of his 18-year old self “doing 18+ stuff” while a stranger he was chatting with at that time, who was clearly posing as him, was encouraging him to join in.
Michael told the BBC he believes the same technique was used to groom him as minor: “I am constantly stressed about it, but I find peace that at least my face is not in it. But it pains me I am used that way to hurt other people. In fact, I believe this is the way I was groomed into the site as a 14-year-old, although I can’t confirm the other person was fake at that time.”