While Fortnite Battle Royale has seen immense success since its release in 2017, it looks as though the game might have been utilized in one of the most disturbing ways possible.
Anthony Gene Thomas, a 41-year-old Floridian, has been accused of unlawful sex with a minor as well as being in possession of various forms of child pornography.
According to an official statement from Florida attorney general Ashley Moody, Thomas’ main method of meeting children was through voice chat in Fortnite.
Once he came into contact with the victim, Thomas allegedly groomed them using money and other gifts, including a cell phone used to keep in close contact.
This eventually led to a meeting in person at Thomas’ home where the sexual offenses took place.
After the child was reported missing and later returned home, police searched Thomas’ home, finding pornographic images and videos of the victim.
While this victim is the only known one to have reportedly come into contact with Thomas, police believe there could be as many as 20 additional victims still to be found.
Given that this crime happened using Fortnite’s in-game voice chat, parents are being encouraged to pay close attention to their children’s interactions online.
“Additionally, parents need to know that predators will use any means possible to target and exploit a child. I am asking parents and guardians to please make sure you know who your children meet online, and talk to them about sexual predators,” urged Moody in her official statement.
While voice chat is a popular mode of communication for online games, this case is just another example of the potential downfalls of such forms of contact.
It should be noted that voice chat can be disabled in the settings menu of Fortnite and every other online title.