Extremists are constantly adapting and finding ways to reach new audiences, spread and spew their hate and create online content. Their latest tactic involves the use of Omegle, a free online chat service that randomly pairs anonymous users for one-on-one video chat sessions. Launched in 2009, the platform’s popularity lagged behind other social media options, but pandemic related boredom and social isolation have apparently increased Omegle’s appeal; according to the platform’s estimates, more than 35,000 users are online at any given moment.
Omegle has no registration requirements. Users simply go to the website and start chatting with the click of a button. Omegle terms and conditions state users must be 18 and older or 13 and older with parental permission, but these conditions are easily ignored.
The premise of Omegle is simple, users log on with a webcam and microphone and are randomly matched with another user with whom they can chat or reject. White supremacists and racists use these roulette-style chat opportunities to “troll” and harass women and minorities, and to attempt to recruit others to their extreme ideologies. The perpetrators post these interactions across additional social media platforms, providing grotesque entertainment for their followers.