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Chatroulette’s Founder Has Spent 12 Years Solving The Sites Infamous ‘Penis Problem’

by : Hannah Smith on : 08 Oct 2021 17:31
Chatroulette’s Founder Has Spent 12 Years Solving The Sites Infamous ‘Penis Problem’Alamy

If you went to a teenage sleepover in the late 2000s, there’s a good chance you know all about Chatroulette.

In many ways a precursor to the swiping left and right seen on Tinder and other dating apps, the idea behind the website was to let random strangers chat to each other on the internet.

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Unfortunately, the reality was altogether less wholesome, with the site quickly degenerating into a mess of online abuse and, famously, unsolicited shots of other people’s junk.

Chatroulette (Wikimedia Commons)Wikimedia Commons

Forcing users to run a virtual gauntlet of penises wasn’t exactly the best way to build a social network, so it’s not all that surprising that Chatroulette quickly disappeared from our collective cultural zeitgeist. But, as Motherboard, reports, the site’s founder never gave up, and has spent the past 12 years trying to solve the platform’s ‘penis problem’ ahead of a relaunch.

‘My first goal is to make a site which people enjoy, whether that’s acceptable in the culture or not. Luckily, nobody wants d*cks,’ said Andrey Ternovskiy, who founded the website in 2009 when he was 17.

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To achieve this, over the past decade or so Ternovskiy has reportedly deployed facial recognition technology capable of detecting ‘excessive amounts of exposed skin while simultaneously recognizing faces as appropriate skin’, as well as a platform of moderators to review and ban offensive users.

He’s also hired a group of women to act as ‘undercover’ users, tasked with logging how many inappropriate users they encounter when using the site.

Chatroulette often featured inappropriate content (Alamy)Alamy

‘For me, it’s quite demotivating to just solve penis problems, because if that’s the only thing I do in 11 years, that’s going to be disappointing… I also want to make this fun,’ Ternovskiy told Motherboard, while explaining that he still hoped Chatroulette could return to its former glory.

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‘I really want to take Chatroulette in the future. You know, it doesn’t have to be the same Chatroulette, but I want to continue, for the story to live on,’ Ternovskiy said. And with the site’s users more than doubling over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems like his plan might be working.

Sending unsolicited images or videos of your genitalia is commonly known today as ‘cyberflashing’, and is widely considered a form of sexual harassment, with a Law Commission report this year calling for the act to be made a criminal offence.

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Hannah Smith

Hannah is a London-based journalist covering news and features for UNILAD. She's especially interested in social and political activism.

Topics: Technology, Social Media

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    Chatroulette's Founder Has Spent 12 Years Trying to Solve ‘The Penis Problem’