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The clearest illustration of just how private Chatroulette comes from a very quick glance at the Chatroulette Map.This mash-up uses screenshots and the IP addresses of Chatroulette users to extract geographic locations and place them on a Google Maps-powered globe.
With those issues in mind, while the blurring out of some of the random strangers diminishes the clip’s intimacy somewhat, it is nevertheless a relief to see an edited version of Merton’s clip return to You Tube: [youtube]’ with that magical exclamation mark which transforms three letters into ten, spelling out sensationalist gold in its most popular form: moral panic.Case in point, Fox News’ Joshua Rhett Miller reports that ‘Chatroulette Is ‘Predator’s Paradise,’ Experts Say’ while Sam Jones of the more respectable Guardian poses the question ‘Chatroulette: risque chat service or pornographic site?Judicious application of the F9 or ‘Next’ button means many users spend more time searching than socialising, more time hunting than chatting, but that’s part of the joy: most Chatroulette users don’t know what they’re searching for until they find it.In that sense, Chatroulette’s search is the anti-Google; it’s a social search engine which only works if you can’t already articulate what you’re looking for. According to much of the mainstream media, you don’t find sex on the internet, you find ‘Sex!v=JTw Jetox_t U[/youtube] While there was some speculation that Merton was actually Ben Folds, that rumour was largely quashed nine days after the initial video when Ben Folds recorded an ‘Ode to Merton’, mimicking Merton’s style right down to the hoodie, and playing his own improvised piano songs, but upping the ante somewhat by doing so in front of a live crowd.3 While there might be some legitimate debate as to whether Ben Folds’ homage was flattery or just a savvy business move cashing in on someone else’s viral hit, the internet petri dish that is Chatroulette is certainly going to be seen as ripe for commercialisation in many different ways.
The clones are already marching in, including Random Dorm and Faceroulette. v=Lfam Tm Y5REw[/youtube] If you need something a little more highbrow, Kieran Healy on Crooked Timber did ask Chatrouletters to “show me ur books”, but the real litmus test, which irrefutably demonstrates that Chatroulette is a microcosm of the internet, comes when the cute cats take over; enter Catroulette.
The map only features a tiny percentage of users, and is only updated periodically, but as their FAQ points out, anyone with a little technical know-how can easily extract this information.
Indeed, far from sinister, the creators of the Chatroulette Map clearly have their own notion of privacy they’re trying to respect, as they currently display this notice on their landing page: “We’d like to advise to stop using student’s names in their hostnames.
’ While these reports are not without some grounds – there do appear to be a lot of Chatroulette users who are unlikely to be legal adults, and there is certainly an annoyingly high percentage of faceless men masturbating on camera – this problem is neither new nor in any way unique to Chatroulette.
While the potential to see such content is certainly a clear reason for some people to avoid the website altogether, the fact that these issues are indicative of online culture can also serve as a reminder that teaching young adults, and older ones, strategies for dealing with unwanted material can be vitally important.
Copyright and Creativity Copyright and creativity online are a bit like a perpetual motion machine; their simultaneous opposition and mutual reliance drives so much of the content which appears (and disappears) online.