Omegle, virtual video chat site that connects random people, sued for allegedly exposing 11-year-old girl to sexual predator

19-year-old sues Omegle, a free online chat room that randomly matches strangers for video chats or text messages, alleging she matched her at age 11 with a predator sex that forced her to share nude photos and videos of herself.

The woman, only identified in the lawsuit as AM, is seeking $ 20 million in non-economic damages, as well as unspecified punitive damages against the company.

Omegle is a limited liability company that was organized in Oregon and founded in March 2009 by home-schooled 18-year-old student Leif K-Brooks, who is now 31 years old. Its main establishment is in Florida. The combination was filed in Portland U.S. District Court on Friday.

K-Brooks did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

AM was 11 in 2014 and was living in Michigan when Omegle paired her with Ryan Scott Fordyce, then in his thirties, who promised he would help her “feel better,” according to the costume. They continued to communicate over the next three years, with Fordyce forcing AM to check in masturbating and occasionally performing for his friends, and using the chat site to recruit other kids to he abuses him, says the lawsuit.

“Some days of the week he would instruct the plaintiff to go back to Omegle for a certain number of hours and find other girls who”[he] would like to.’ AM’s job would be to take screenshots of them, get their contact details and pass everything on to Fordyce, ”lawyers Barbara C. Long and Carrie Goldberg wrote in the lawsuit.

Fordyce regularly warned AM that if she reported their contacts to the police, he would share her photos and videos and that she could be arrested, according to the prosecution.

The home page of the site invites to “Talk to strangers!” “, Along with its inherent dangers and lack of protections – such as pairing children with adults, and failing to verify a user’s age or monitor or report abusive users – is reckless and negligent, the lawsuit disputes. .

The site says users must be “18+ or 13+ with parental permission and supervision” to use Omegle, but there is no age verification.

“Between May 2015 and May 2021, the text on Omegle’s homepage included a sentence that read,“ Predators are known to use Omegle, so be careful. “Instead of serving as a warning, however, the statement is an admission that Omegle was well aware that crimes against children were occurring on his platform,” AM’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.

The company has failed to identify and ban predatory users through inappropriate language detected in chats or its video surveillance feature, or to give users a way to report issues or “abusive content.” “the prosecution said.

Instead, the site’s home page says, “Omegle video chat is moderate, but no moderation is perfect. Users are solely responsible for their behavior while using Omegle. ”

The company “acted with scandalous indifference to a risk of highly unreasonable harm and with a conscious indifference to the health, safety and well-being of others, including the plaintiff,” alleges the liability lawsuit. some products. He also accuses the site of promoting prostitution and sex trafficking.

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On January 12, 2018, when AM was 15, her parents were contacted by Canadian law enforcement, who identified their daughter by the high school sweatshirt she was wearing in a photo they saw. . Canadian officers said they searched the home of a man named Fordyce and recovered 3,055 child pornography files from his devices, including 220 images and videos of AM.

Last month, Fordyce pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography for the purpose of distributing or making available child pornography and communicating with a person under the age of 18 by telecommunication.

AM, who was once a strong and outgoing student, has withdrawn from friends and family, missed school and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks. She can no longer wear her hair to the side as it was Fordyce’s preference when giving her assignments, the costume said.

AM is now living in New Zealand and in her second year of college studying psychology in hopes of becoming a child mental health professional, according to her lawyers.

“There is no reason why a video streaming product that randomly matches adults and children exists, let alone without any real security checks. It’s not about limiting Internet access or screen time, it’s about the consequences for a product that knowingly provides and benefits from predator access to children, ”AM said in a commentary. communicated.

“This trial is bigger than me, the damage has already been done to me, but my team and I are determined to protect the children after me who are just as vulnerable as I am. No one deserves this.”

Fordyce, now 46, pleaded guilty last month in Canada to disseminating pornographic images of young girls. He is expected to be sentenced next month, according to Brandon’s Sun.

According to a BBC report earlier this yearOmegle gained popularity during the coronavirus pandemic as children were isolated from their friends – from 34 million visits per month worldwide in January 2020 to 65 million in January this year.

–Maxine Bernstein

Email to [email protected]; 503-221-8212

Follow on Twitter @maxoregonian



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