Cyber chat room visited by sexual deviants
By Robin Scott
The Office of Greg Abbott, Attorney General for the State of Texas recently sent out a consumer alert to law enforcement agencies across the State. The warning advises parents to keep children away from a new form of exploitation. The exploitation comes in the form of a website that offers video chat with randomly selected chatters. The possibility that a child entering into a chat with a sex offender is extremely high due to a lack of safeguards in place that would exclude young users.
The website is chatroulette.com, and as its name suggests, the chats may quickly spin to a new participant by clicking the mouse on “new game.” Abbott noted in his alert, “Parents should Keep Children Away From New Video Chat Website Chatroulette.com. The increasingly popular Web site poses a threat to Texas children by giving users – including dangerous sex offenders – an opportunity to conduct live video chats with randomly selected participants.”
The chat works by allowing a user to participate via a web cam (web camera) and Internet access. Users are “paired with a random stranger for a video chat,” according to Abbott. He noted further that the feature that makes this website extremely dangerous is that “neither a login nor registration is required before young users can be face-to-face with a total stranger. Worse, users who simply click ‘next’ are shuffled to a new video chat partner.”
The website was first brought to the attention of the community by Sheriff Bruce Scott with the Dallam County Sheriff’s Office. He stated, “I haven’t had anyone report anything about the site, but figure it is just a matter of time before it happens around here.”
The site has terms of service that states, “You have to be at least 16-years-old to use our service. Chatroulette does not tolerate broadcasting obscene, offending, pornographic material and we will have to block users who violate these rules from using our service. Please use ‘Report inappropriate video’ link to notify us about inappropriate content and we will take necessary steps.” A child who is on the site without a parent’s permission is not likely to make a report of an inappropriate video, and may in fact be lured into participating in inappropriate actions.
In an undercover investigation by the Cyber Crimes Unit, “Nearly half of the randomly selected users encountered by Cyber Crimes investigators immediately exposed themselves and conducted sexually explicit acts on camera,” according to Abbott. If nearly half of the participants immediately expose themselves, then the site has earned a reputation as the place to go for such acts, and that’s no place for children.
Abbot’s consumer alert added, “In light of the serious threat that children will be exposed to graphic sexual conduct, Texas parents should prohibit their children from accessing www.chatroulette.com.” The site states that users must be at least 16-years-old. Sixteen is way too young for such content, and the age rules may not be enforced in some households where parents aren’t aware of their child’s Internet usage. Abbot notes, “That means parents’ preventative role is particularly important.”
Attorney General Abbott reminds parents to closely monitor their children’s Internet activities by using the following safety tips: “Place the computer in a public room at home so that parents can monitor their children’s Internet use. Do not allow computers in a child’s bedroom or permit the use of web cameras. Make sure children know never to agree to a face-to-face meeting with someone they meet online and never to divulge personal information to an Internet stranger.”
Further, parents should, “Stay informed. Surf the Internet with children or at least talk to them about the websites they are visiting. Establish ground rules for children’s Internet usage, including the hours they may surf and the kinds of websites they may visit. Post the rules near the computer.”
Keeping children safe from the possibility of becoming a victim of a sexual crime is important to all parents and law enforcement agencies. Anyone suspecting that their child may have unwittingly become a victim should contact the Dalhart Police Department, Dallam County Sheriff’s Office or Hartley County Sheriff’s Office and make a report of the incident.
A Dalhart Texan exclusive investigation revealed that at the time this article was written, 20,000 users were on chatroulette.com. No registration was required at all to enter the site, and the video cams of people logged into the site immediately loaded their images without any request by the author of this article. A request to utilize the user’s webcam popped open, which appears to be the only method for not entering into a video chat unwittingly. Using the “next” button 10 times brought up six teenagers, one young man lying in a bed, one young woman, and a man in his forties holding a bong. The tenth chat showed a photograph of a man’s genitalia doctored up to look like a cartoon character. Of the six teenagers, all were young boys except for one girl, who was on screen with two other young girls.