What is this site in the sights of child protection?

Chatroulette, version 2022. Its name is Omegle, and it’s a newcomer in the long list of platforms reported by child protection: this American video chat site has been around for a while, it was created in 2009. “We receive almost no reports on it, unlike porn sites or social networks, tempers Thomas Rohmer, president and founder of Open, the Observatory of parenting and digital education. But if there is no “Omegle effect” on a daily basis, that does not mean that the conclusions of the investigation of Kool Mag are wrong”.

Because it all started with the said survey released by Kool Mag Thursday April 21. In a video, Baptiste des Monstiers, co-founder of the site whose motto is “Assume your Daron side” and ex-journalist at Daily, denounces the Omegle site, on which he connected on a Wednesday afternoon. He met teenagers of all ages who were not all 13 years old, the minimum legal age required to connect, as well as adults, often naked, in equivocal positions, in full masturbation, etc… In short, content totally inappropriate and illegal for use by minors.

But how is it possible that such a site is authorized in France?

In the sights of American justice for several years, Omegle had not yet made the headlines in France. In 2017, the site was involved in a criminal case between the United Kingdom and the United States. It had served for a contact between an American pedophile woman, waitress and stripper in San Francisco, and a British couple, convicted of acts of sexual assault on minors under 13 years old. The American had admitted during the couple’s trial in Plymouth (Great Britain), that she had met him on Omegle where she had typed as a keyword to find common interests, the term “pedophile”. They then went on the Skype platform to commit the main crimes charged.

On Wednesday, Adrien Taquet, Secretary of State for Children announced that he was going to report to justice, the messaging platform for “exposure of minors to pornography and pedocrime”. But for Thomas Rohmer, we must go further. “Protecting children in digital spaces, yes it encroaches on certain individual freedoms, we must not put on blinders. But it is necessary. These are societal choices that have already been decided on the sale of alcohol, tobacco in particular”. He ardently asks that a social debate be launched to stop “opposing child protection and freedom of expression”. Because this Chatroulette version 2022 is only one more example of the lack of effective regulation of the digital space, “the same sea serpent as access to porn sites and the current legal disputes on the subject”.

Digital education is everyone’s business

The novelty with Omegle, according to the president of the Open, “is the pernicious role of influencers”. Youtubers and TikTokeurs would be behind the arrival on this video chat of the youngest: “What is their responsibility when they suggest to their community that they can, with a little luck, chat with their idol in connecting to Omegle? asks Thomas Rohmer. Not to mention the deliberate lie of this message: statistically, the chances of “falling” on their favorite influencer are tiny. “These influencers need to be aware of their responsibility in this kind of incitement.”

the testimony of Nadia B. on Twitter, mother of two children aged 10 and 13, following the viewing of the investigation of Kool Magis edifying: “I talked about it this morning at home, my husband, who is nevertheless a geek, had never heard of Omegle, but on the other hand, my two boys aged 10 and 13 knew about it through the invitations guys they follow on Youtube”.

“In digital education, parents also have to grasp these subjects head on,” adds Thomas Rohmer. Limiting screen time is not enough today. For him, the question of digital support must be at the center of concerns, especially when we know that the purchase of digital tools is occurring earlier and earlier. “Our latest study dating from February, reveals that the purchase of the first smartphone occurs on average below the age of ten years, he recalls. By leaving completely free access to sites like Omegle, it’s a bit like giving young people an appointment in a sex shop”.

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