The Video Chat Platform Breeding A New Form Of Hate Propaganda

Omegle, a 10-year-old random video chat platform found new life during the pandemic. Among the thousands of different streams, a site that asks its users to “talk to strangers” is becoming a home for hate.

Peter Smith
Canadian Anti-Hate Network



Relatively forgotten for almost a decade, the video chat platform Omegle has soared in popularity during the pandemic, as everyone from children to teenagers and adults, all seem to frequent the platform. Everything from its basic interface on the landing page to the concept itself is decidedly simple. 

No login is required, simply a few clicks, a screen name and the option to add some interests that might connect like-minded individuals is all that is needed to get started. College students can choose to enter a “.edu” email address to enter the college-only area. Once inside, users bounce from chat to chat, with both text-only and video options available. 

It has become a well of content for influencers to mine their humorous interactions with anonymous and unknown people. The New York Times ran an article extolling the resurgence of Omegle and aimless video interactions -- although it missed a few things. 

 

The Joke is Over

 
Paul Miller. Source: Screenshot from an encrypted messaging app.

While the often glaring sexual content is the source of most of the revulsion on the site, it has also become a home for unadulterated hate. Extending far beyond random interactions, accelerationists, trolls, and their many intersections in the world of bigotry have been making niche celebrities from a collection of despicable figures.

These are the men like Paul Miller, who currently sits in a Florida penitentiary awaiting trial on weapons charges. Miller made his name playing dress-up and shouting racial slurs and threats at anyone unlucky enough to come across him. While he is facing an extended stay in prison as his case proceeds, outside of his cell are well over 42,000 followers on his channel on an encrypted messaging service, at time of writing. 

He is certainly not the first Omegle streaming troll, but what has always distinguished Miller is his quick rise in popularity and self-promotion. 

While the shtick of absurd costumes and white power phrases were mostly intended to shock and offend, Miller appears to have been doing more than just grifting. In court, during a hearing to see if he would be released pending trial, police revealed the extent of his post-arrest comments.

In them, he details fears of a coming societal collapse, one that requires armaments to survive. 

According to the prosecutor, after a morning raid by the FBI, a search of Miller’s rental property found rifle parts with no serial number or manufacturer insignia hidden in his dryer. Elsewhere they also located over 400+ rounds of ammunition. He was subsequently taken into custody on a litany of weapons charges. 

Ultimately, Miller was held in custody after prosecutors told the court “There’s no way to keep him from using his large internet following to harass and intimidate potential witnesses.”

 

The Bridge Troll Army

 

Paul Miller’s rise and fall is particularly germane to the story of Omegle. Not because of what Miller accomplished (selling patches), or the ire of fellow Nazis that his popularity forced him to endure (it was extensive), rather because following his boom of attention, others took up the cause. 

Most are parrots of the one-time Muay Thai fighter, young men and boys who quickly pull a skull mask over their face and heil Hitler on the internet. 

Others have been more successful, including at least one Canadian.

Brandon Martinez. Source: Screenshot from an encrypted messaging app.

Once a propagandist and former writer for a state-owned Iranian news site, Brandon Martinez has spent the better part of a decade as a prolific producer of antisemitic, misogynistic, and racist materials. His books, all detailing conspiracy theories about Jews, are available on Amazon.

Martinez mimics Miller's tactics, including harassing children.

On his livestream, Martinez produces a regular commentary of vlogs that see him doing the work to “wake people up” and “expose the agenda” of the Jews -- his favourite target for blame and derision.

Do you have information about Brandon Martinez? Contact Peter Smith on Wire @peter_TUS. 

He views all non-Europeans as “shock troopers” of the replacement. He rejects the title of “ethnonationalism” in exchange for a convenient “racial nationalism,” which views the different cultures of Europeans as potentially divisive.

“Not enough white people support what we support for us to be so petty about it,” he told his viewers during one question and answer session. His followers are regularly able to interact with him and engage during the streams.

His actual beliefs are an unoriginal collection of reinterpreted fascist history. He regularly dives into a near-obsession with his father’s nationality, calling him a “pure Spaniard,” and his adoration of the dictator Francisco Franco. He has discussion channels for members who speak English, Spanish, and Russian, and one purely dedicated to housing his Omegle videos.

Philip “Catboy Kami” Headley. Source: Screenshot from an encrypted messaging app.

Other additions to the streaming ecosystem have been Australian Philip “Catboy Kami” Headley, one of few streamers in this space to have more followers than Miller. A former Twitch streamer and white nationalist who has been banned from most major video and streaming platforms, a fight between the Catboy and the Nazi-Joker never materialized even after both publicly stated one was in the works. 

Headly also reports being subject to a police raid, but declined to give any details of the case, saying it would be revealed after the investigation has been concluded.

Thomas Joseph Hampton. Source: Screenshot from an encrypted messaging app.

Another popular troll, Thomas Joseph Hampton, better known as TJ, was also recently arrested - on stream. The footage circulates on his remaining channels behind mournful music. He has since given interviews stating he plans to return to producing his content but has had all of his electronics confiscated. 

His channels are currently being administered by a friend, he says.

Hampton’s particular approach to streaming borrows heavily from Miller and includes dressing up as a police officer while kneeling on a superimposed picture of George Floyd. In other clips, he’s dressed in the uniform of an SS officer standing in front of a black and white background of the Auschwitz concentration camp, in others he is wearing blackface -- a common favourite.  

Hampton sits perhaps closest behind Martinez as the next potential successor to Miller and Headly as the most popular streaming Nazi troll. But that does not mean others aren’t contending for the paper Burger King crown. 

Older content creators like America’s antisemitic Jon “Handsome Truth” Minadeo have taken to Omegle on their own shows. With Minadeo noting in a recent stream on his self-run platform that the Omegle trolling was bringing in new fans and netting higher views. 

Countless others have emerged since then as well. Usually incorporating some type of gimmick into their work -- a lesson learned from Miller and Headly. One channel will work as a group, dressed in soldier uniforms and sometimes hiding behind a pride or antifa flag. While one member engages with their latest match, the flag is dropped and the crowd emerges making Roman salutes and shouting insults.

Source: Screenshot from an encrypted messaging app.

With a combined total of videos that span into the 10s of thousands, and countless other copycats languishing in obscurity, juvenile streaming trolls have become a propaganda movement. 

 

“Use Omegle at your own peril”

 

While people are instructed not to harass one another, post sexual content, or personal information, while still putting the onus on the user, Omegle's landing page is not shy about its potential for abuse.

“Understand that human behaviour is fundamentally uncontrollable, that the people you encounter on Omegle may not behave appropriately, and that they are solely responsible for their own behaviour,” the site’s disclaimer reads. “Use Omegle at your own peril. Disconnect if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable. You may be denied access to Omegle for inappropriate behaviour, or for any other reason.”

It is not clear how a denial of access is decided on or enforced. 

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network reached out to Omegle creator Leif K-Brooks for comment on Omegle’s moderation policy but did not hear back before publication. We will update accordingly. 

No one under 13 is supposed to use the site and even then only with parental permission, there are however no attempts at age verification. There appears to be a moderated and unmoderated section, though the actual extent of the moderation, if it is automated or human-driven, or if it is even possible to ever reign in the site’s bad actors is unknown. Requests for comment on other articles discussing the site have been declined in the past. 

“Webcam images may be captured from Omegle video chats, uploaded to Omegle's servers, and monitored for misbehaviour as part of Omegle's moderation process,” the site’s barebone HTML terms of service read. “Captured images may also be stored and used to improve Omegle's moderation process.

“Omegle provides an unmoderated video chat mode. In this mode, the snapshotting and monitoring mentioned in the previous paragraph does not occur.”

It does seem as if the company is aware of at least some of its problems. Even before the fine print, the website reads, “Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.”

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