Extremists are constantly adapting and finding ways to reach new audiences, spread and spew their hate and create online content. Their latest tactic involves the use of Omegle, a free online chat service that randomly pairs anonymous users for one-on-one video chat sessions. Launched in 2009, the platform’s popularity lagged behind other social media options, but pandemic related boredom and social isolation have apparently increased Omegle’s appeal; according to the platform’s estimates, more than 35,000 users are online at any given moment.
Omegle has no registration requirements. Users simply go to the website and start chatting with the click of a button. Omegle terms and conditions state users must be 18 and older or 13 and older with parental permission, but these conditions are easily ignored.
The premise of Omegle is simple, users log on with a webcam and microphone and are randomly matched with another user with whom they can chat or reject. White supremacists and racists use these roulette-style chat opportunities to “troll” and harass women and minorities, and to attempt to recruit others to their extreme ideologies. The perpetrators post these interactions across additional social media platforms, providing grotesque entertainment for their followers.
This tactic, referred to by practitioners as “Omegle Redpilling,” involves saying something offensive in the introductory moment of the chat in an effort to elicit outrage, shock or debate. Perpetrators may shout “white power” and give a Hitler Salute, make fun of someone’s appearance, yell a racist slur or ask, “are you a Jew?”
Australian white supremacist Philip Hedley, an avid (former) YouTuber whose racist and antisemitic comments were captured on video during a November 7, 2020 “StoptheSteal” rally in Phoenix, Arizona, popularized Omegle trolling in extremist circles. Hedley’s videos, which include recent footage of him dressed as a police officer assaulting an effigy of George Floyd, have been widely reposted by white supremacists, and have attracted a significant number of extremist admirers. Though he was de-platformed by YouTube, Hedley’s social media footprint continues to be substantial, and includes a Telegram channel with more than 51,000 followers, several BitChute channels with more than 8,500 subscribers and a Discord channel with almost 3,500 members.
Hedley often dresses in racist costumes and makeup and uses Omegle to target Blacks, Asians, Latinos and Jews. One Hedley fan wrote on Telegram, “He’s going on stream blackfaced dropping redpills about niggers, jews, and spics like you wouldn’t believe. This is pre 2010-tier 4chan trolling, don’t miss out.”
As Hedley’s hateful antics have gained popularity, other white supremacists have also adopted the tactic. One recently posted on Telegram, “Omegle is fun. I just redpilled a 12 year old [sic] on the Jews.” Also on Telegram, two other popular white supremacist provocateurs recently asked their fans whether they should use the tactic. On November 19, 2020, one surveyed his followers with the question, “When I get my live streaming set up running would you like to see me do the omegle thing every once and a while [sic]?”
Hedley also appears to have inspired Paul Miller, a Florida-based white supremacist from New Jersey, who regularly uses racial slurs and racist jokes while harassing Omegle users dressed as supervillain comic book characters The Riddler and The Joker. As The Riddler, he often says, “Riddle me this before you go. I’m loud and obnoxious. I like music that rhythms. I’m a fraction of the population but commit half the crimes. What am I? I’m a NIGGER!!!” He then laughs hysterically.
Miller has streamed content using platforms such as DLive, Twitch and Bitwave.Tv. He also posts Omegle videos on extremist favorite BitChute where more than 3,000 people subscribe to his channels, and on Telegram where he has nearly 13,000 followers. One of his fans wrote that Miller “came on this scene and rose to the top. A quality Catholic Man who provides the funniest streams on Telegram. A recently ex-New Yorker he has moved to sunnier climates to share his excellently crafted characters on Omegle to wake up The Whites and dunk on Niggers and Jews.”
Their accounts are attracting extremist fans: In October and November 2020, five new white supremacist trolls have surfaced on Omegle. All but one follow either Hedley or Miller.
Canadian racist Brandon Martinez, an independent writer who ran an alt right website, is also an Omegle troll. Martinez often uses an Omegle feature that allows users to add their interests, so that Omegle will pair them with users with similar interests. But instead of adding his own interests, he has included terms like “BLM” or “Biden” in an effort to orchestrate confrontational pairings.
Between October 30 and November 14, 2020, Martinez posted approximately 400 Omegle videos on a Telegram channel with more than 2000 subscribers. He has also used Gab and Bitchute to post his content. Martinez gives each of his videos a descriptive caption, such as, “Trolling some BLM Bitches,” “Lecturing a Jewess About the Evils of Her Race,” “Quarreling with Some Degenerate Dykes,” “Negro Child gets Triggered by White Activism” and “Red Pilling White Kid.”