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At the end of the conversation, an application asked whether we would like to publish our conversation directly to Facebook. This suggests a certain familiarity on the part of Facebook users with this group and, sure enough, there is currently an Omegle page in Facebook with over 45,000 fans.

Facebook remains embroiled in in disagreements with CEOP in respect of hosting a panic button, and this is likely to exacerbate current differences.

CEOP told us: “To police any environment online we need a collaborative approach and need providers to step up to the mark in realising the very real harm their environments can present.

“That is why we advocate that all sites adopt the CLICKCEOP button – providing genuine users with clear and immediate access to the police when they are in danger or suspect trouble while acting as a very visible deterrent to would-be offenders.”

In one respect, Omegle is nothing new. It was launched last March, allegedly by an 18-year-old from Brattleboro, Vermont, and is typical of a controversial new form of internet interaction known as “stranger chat” or “Chat Roulette”, with the latter recently exciting scepticism in the Mail and praise in the Sun. Chat Roulette also requires users to have access to a report button.

Where Omegle differs from other services is that it has no age limits, no warning notice and appears wholly unmoderated.

While the principle is interesting – not altogether dissimilar from speed-dating – the lack of moderation involved in the Omegle project is likely to be enough to give Jim Gamble, head of the UK’s Child Exploitation Online Protection Unit (CEOP), some colourful nightmares.

A spokeswoman for Facebook told us: “If people look at the Omegle page on Facebook, they will see that the content there is about service and involves people discussing issues that arise from using Omegle – which is not, in itself, an unhealthy development.

“Facebook is there to promote interaction and debate, and so long as the content itself does not breach our terms, there is not reason for us to take down a page. Omegle is not a service we would ourselves support – but there are many brands and issues that excite controversy. So long as Facebook users limit themselves to discussing issues, and do not behave in ways that we deem unacceptable, then we have no problem.” ®

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