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07-Jul-2015 20:31

The Internet’s new social media phenomenon allows you to chat face-to-face with a random selection of tens of thousands of human beings.It’s a very good reason to give thanks for South Africa’s poor, government-induced bandwidth.But that doesn’t mean Chat Roulette isn’t going to be huge.

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This isn't a place where police officers can pretend to be teen girls. Viva the ineptitude of the Department of Communications, viva!

This isn't a place where you feel forced to stick around; you can move on and no one will know the difference. By Kevin Bloom Read more: Chat Roulette, Time, New York magazine, Boing Boing Daily Maverick has suspended comments on the site.

Where on Facebook and Twitter you choose the people whose lives (and perversions) you wish to gain access to, on Chat Roulette all you have is the “Next” button. Which means you’ll see a lot of what you don’t want to see before you see something you do.

It’s naive, as Fletcher suggests, to expect anything less than “brutal” in such circumstances.

The closest I actually came this morning to talking to somebody on Chat Roulette was when I found an American college student staring back at me. I’ll say this: only after an hour of online research did it occur to me that our magnificent Department of Communications might for once be doing us a favour.

We said “hey” to each other, and then South African infrastructure got in the way. As Time magazine’s Dan Fletcher observed last week: “I've plumbed the depths of the Web, and one thing I've learned is that when you give anyone an open platform with anonymity and no moderating, it inevitably gets overrun by the lowest common denominators: trolls, exhibitionists and an endless stream of hopeful men prodding women to take off their clothes.” Fletcher was responding to an essay in New York magazine by Sam Anderson, who’d written that on first visiting Chat Roulette he’d been primed for a Walt Whitman experience – “ecstatic surrender to the miraculous variety and abundance of humankind.” Sadly, by paragraph three, it was clear he never got it.