A 19-year-old Oregonian filed a lawsuit against a chat platform that advertises itself as a “great way to meet new friends” for randomly connecting her at age 11 with a user who forced her to share nude photos and videos of herself.
Websites and social networks advertised as platforms to meet people with apparent common interests have become a haven for pedophiles, which is very dangerous, especially for the most vulnerable: children.
With little or no parental supervision, or often behind their parents’ backs, children embark on these sites that promise them a fun “social life” and the possibility of making more friends, leaving them at the mercy of depraved pedophiles who are on the prowl looking for victims.
A typical case involved an 11-year-old girl from Oregon who was contacted by one of these perverts on a website offering video chat or text messages.
The young victim, known in court documents by the acronym A.M., filed the lawsuit on Friday, Nov. 19, in U.S. District Court in Portland, against Omegle, a free online chat room launched in 2009 by an Oregon student who is now 31.
According to Oregon Live, A.M.’s attorneys accuse the company, which is listed as a limited liability company, of promoting prostitution and sex trafficking in the lawsuit.
In 2014, at the age of 11, A.M. began using the site to meet other students but was contacted by Ryan Scott Fordyce, a Canadian pedophile then in his 30s who was caught and is now serving a 10-year prison sentence.
At first, Fordyce tricked her by telling her he would help her feel good, and little by little, he made the girl trust him. First, he started asking her for pictures of her smiling face, and then he forced her to give him her contact information to continue their relationship outside the platform.
He soon began asking her to send him photos and videos of her body, doing different poses, and even of her naked. He also, court documents allege, forced her to use the website to recruit other children to satisfy his perversities.
“A.M.’s task would be to take screenshots of them, get their contact information, and relay everything to Fordyce,” attorneys Barbara C. Long and Carrie Goldberg said in the lawsuit.
The pedophile threatened A.M. for three years, telling her that he would leak the photos to her family and acquaintances and told her she would get in trouble with her parents and could be arrested if she did not continue to do as he asked.
This terrible situation continued until 2018, when the parents of A.M, then 15 years old, were contacted by Canadian police, who informed them that they had caught a pedophile who possessed photographs of their daughter. In total, law enforcement authorities recovered 3,055 files of child pornography on Fordyce’s devices, which included 220 images and videos of A.M.
The site does not require users to verify their age or names and says that children as young as 13 can use the platform with parental permission. But the site has no system to monitor or prevent minors from being contacted by adults. Thus it became a conducive medium for pedophiles, a fact of which Omegle was not unaware.
Regarding this, the lawyers in the lawsuit wrote, “Between May of 2015 and May of 2021, the text on Omegle’s homepage included a sentence that read: ‘Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.’ Instead of serving as a warning, though, the statement is an admission that Omegle was well aware that crimes to children were occurring on its platform.'”
“There’s no reason for a video streaming product that randomly pairs adults and children to exist at all, let alone without any real safety controls. This is not about limiting internet access or screen time, it’s about consequences for a product that knowingly provides and profits from predators’ access to children,” A.M. said in a statement.
“This lawsuit 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 that are just as vulnerable as I was. Nobody deserves this,” the young pedophilia victim added.