Is Emerald Chat Safe? – Omegle alternative could be a new tool for predators
Chat sites like Omegle, which allow users to talk to strangers online, present a challenge for any parent trying to protect their children from predators. A new app / service called Emerald Chat is now positioning itself as an alternative, but is Emerald Chat safe?
The platform’s involvement in a recent child abduction case could indicate danger to young users.
What is Emerald Chat?
Like Omegle, Emerald Chat is a service that connects people around the world at random to chat. There is no way to get an app version from the Google or Android app stores, but there are workarounds that allow you to download it to your phone. Thus, children can use the service without a computer. (We won’t post the “how-to” here for obvious reasons.)
The service is apparently aimed at users 18 and over, and users are asked to confirm their age before logging in. However, in Parentology‘s app, we couldn’t find any other way to check a user’s age – same with Omegle.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Emerald Chat did not respond to Parentology’s request for an interview.]
Emerald Chat requires you to create an account if you want to use the full service, which is the first barrier to entry if a young person is worried about getting caught. Once on the site, users have the option of having a one-to-one text chat, video chat, or group text chat. The service can match users based on matching interests. It also lets you filter which gender you prefer to chat with, but only if you go with Emerald Gold for $ 3.89 per month – a second barrier if you’re underage because you need a credit card or money. an ATM to activate it.
Is Emerald Chat Safe?
It depends on your definition of “safe”.
After selecting the chat feature you want to use, there is no real moderation. One-on-one texts or videos can be as meaningful as users want. In the non-Emerald Gold section of the video chat, we did not find any egregious sexual behavior. There were people in dark “whimsical” settings – and shirtless guys – but we also didn’t cheer him on with the people we met.
However, if the group chat feature is any indication, users don’t hold back. It works the same as the old-fashioned AOL chat rooms with scrolling comments, and after exploring the section Parentology quickly found a thread riddled with sexual language – a violation of the rules of the app.
Platform users can give other users positive or negative karma scores based on their interactions, which forms the basis for the AI-powered site moderation. Users who receive consistently low karma scores may find themselves automatically banned for a temporary period.
If a user abuses the app, the “Help” section of the site simply recommends giving them a negative karma score. In theory, if enough users give an attacker a low score, they will automatically, but only temporarily, be banned.
The site also has a team of “active mods” who have the ability to ban users who break the rules.
Still, there’s nothing stopping someone under the age of 18 from just clicking the verify button and enjoying all the app has to offer.
A tool for predators?
This lack of strict age verification was a major factor in a heart-wrenching kidnapping case that unfolded earlier this year.
Fourteen-year-old Savannah Childress went missing from her North Carolina home on February 11. During the ensuing investigation, police discovered she was using her school-provided laptop to communicate with an adult male on multiple platforms, including Emerald Chat. Find out more adult videos at dateblocker.
Speaking to other young girls the man had contacted, authorities identified him as William Ice, 38. County officials have confirmed that Ice had sexually explicit conversations with Childress on Emerald Chat prior to the kidnapping.
Fortunately, police were able to safely recover Childress on February 20 after finding Ice’s car. The kidnapper committed suicide in a subsequent shooting.
“She is definitely traumatized and has a long way to go in recovering,” said Sgt David Blake of the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.
In the wake of the troubling incident, authorities are urging parents to take a closer look at communication apps like Emerald.
“There needs to be more monitoring, constant monitoring both of how devices are being used and whether all devices in the house provide a safe place for learning,” said Cesar Pinto, professor at the Old Dominion University.
When asked what parents should take away from the case, Davidson County Sheriff Richie Simmons recommended getting to know the chat apps on their kids’ phones.
“I encourage all parents to encourage their children, if you can’t text them from your cell phone then don’t communicate with them,” Simmons said. “That would be just the biggest lesson, I think we could all really look at the apps on our kids’ phones.”
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