Sex Trafficking Lawsuit Against Internet Chat Website Cleared To Move Forward
A federal judge has rejected a motion to dismiss a sexual trafficking lawsuit filed against the website Omegle.com, allowing a complaint to move forward involving allegations that a pre-teen was blackmailed and harassed into sending “obscene” content to a sexual predator through the internet chat room.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of a plaintiff identified only with the initials A.M., who indicates that the social media chat site paired her up with a man who sexually abused her online, alleging that Omegle knew it was pairing minors with sexual predators, but continued to do so in order to maintain profits at children’s expense.
A.M. indicates she was only 11 years old in 2014, when Omegle paired her in one-on-one chats with Ryan Fordyce, who was in his late 30s. The lawsuit claims Omegle’s most common use is for live sexual activity, but the company did not have adequate age verification procedures in place, and actively marketed its services to young children.
Omegle has twice tried to have the case dismissed, however U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman rejected the website’s motion for a second time in an opinion and order (PDF) issued on February 2.
“Children as young as 13 are allowed to use Defendant’s website. But Omegle does not use any typical social media safety measures such as requiring registration, names, or age verification,” Judge Mosman wrote. “They also distribute their product directly (i.e., via its website) rather than by a downloaded app. These two features of the product make it difficult to trace users.”
Judge Mosman noted that defendants have the ability to make changes which would minimize predators’ access to children, such as age verification, separating minors and adults, forbidding minors from using the service or monitoring and tracking its users, but has not.
“Given the very structure of the platform, and Omegle’s business model, I find that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that Omegle knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that it was receiving compensation from advertisers on account of the sex acts taking place on its website, some of which involved minors,” the opinion states. “In short, I find that Plaintiff has alleged that Omegle did knowingly facilitate sexual encounters between minors and adults, and that it benefited in that venture through receiving advertising revenue. Plaintiff successfully contends that Defendant did more than ‘tum a blind eye to the source of their revenue’.”
While Judge Mosman did dismiss a negligence claim, he allowed the other five claims against Omegle to proceed, including defective design, defective warning, failure to warn, and sex trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion.
AnthonyMarch 5, 2023 at 12:06 pm
Omegle's platform and method of doing business typifies what I call the "wild west" mentality as it pertains to the relatively new phenomenon we call the internet. It could be argued that they pushed the boundaries recklessly but in the end examples like this are the precedents for future regulations so in a way some may consider them pioneers of the new online era. I am not in a position to jud[Show More]Omegle's platform and method of doing business typifies what I call the "wild west" mentality as it pertains to the relatively new phenomenon we call the internet. It could be argued that they pushed the boundaries recklessly but in the end examples like this are the precedents for future regulations so in a way some may consider them pioneers of the new online era. I am not in a position to judge their intent. I look forward to clarification of this issue and many others in the coming years.
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