The recent phenomenon of Chatroulette has just recently surfaced and is sure to make an impression. 17-year-old Russian teenager, Andrey Ternovskiy, created the social website allowing users to talk via webcam to random strangers all over the world. The first thing that comes to my mind is how desperate are people for friends? However, after a first hand experience, I could see why this social website had potential to be a popular craze. I was first introduced to Chatroulette about 2 weeks ago when a friend suggested we take a break from studying and try it out. I’ve never been one for online chat rooms, but she told me she had seen the Jonas Brothers on it. Who doesn’t love the Jo-bros? Just kidding, but we decided to give it a go.
It was too easy. With the click of a button we were right there: two screens, one right below the other, one for us and one for the stranger (literally, that’s what the opposite box is titled). On the right is a chat box option, where you and your stranger can type messages. If at any point you get bored with your stranger, feel free to click the ‘Next’ button in the upper left side, and within seconds a new image will appear before the screen. Well, that night we didn’t end up meeting the Jonas Brothers, but we did interact with a couple of other interesting characters. The users ranged from people who appeared to be normal and curious to emo teenagers who didn’t speak to creepy old men fondling themselves. Now, that kind of gets me.
From discussion in class, we have learned there has to be some type of censor on a website that offers pornography (i.e. a confirmation by the user trying to access the website that he or she is over 18 years of age). So, what’s the difference when it comes to chat rooms? Are there different rules? All I know is it seems nearly impossible to monitor a site that currently has 36,516 users online right now. Is Andrey Ternovskiy going to be responsible if a thirteen-year-old boy sees two people having sex on his opposite stranger screen? Maybe since I’m new to this whole chat room business, I’m being completely ignorant to a separate set of rules that apply in this setting. I just think there are a lot of worried mothers that could have a field day over this kind of thing. As for the users I mentioned, I don’t mean to stereotype. I’m sure there are many people that could tell you of pleasant experiences they’ve had on the site. And for that matter, what may be distasteful to me could be another person’s favorite pastime. I guess only time will tell what this social website means for future censorship of communication on the Internet.