Facebook Metaverse: An ’embarrassing’ place for women, says first-time user

METAVERSE – This is Facebook’s latest major project. Metaverse is a virtual world developed by the American company Mark Zuckerberg, which recently changed its official name to Meta. A kind of parallel universe, which the general public should be able to access thanks to virtual reality headsets that will allow them to fully immerse themselves in new spaces on the Internet, in order to work there or join other people.

But this future of the Internet may turn out to be unwelcome for half of humanity. Anyway, that’s what journalist Parmi Olson of Bloomberg Opinion fears in an article published on December 15. The columnist previously managed to try the first versions of the Metaverse on Facebook for two weeks, and what she experienced as a woman, according to her, was sometimes “very uncomfortable”. “What does social virtual reality look like? Imagine games combined with old-fashioned online chat rooms: messy, experimental and often male-dominated. There are trolls and hateful kids,” she says.

A place full of children…

On Thursday, December 9, Meta opened the doors of its virtual reality social platform Horizon Worlds to anyone over the age of 18 in the United States or Canada. Prior to that, Parmy Olson was able to explore her predecessor, Horizon Venues, a place “teeming with children” according to her – and that’s while Facebook apps are theoretically not available to children under 13.

In her tests of social interactions with avatars of strangers in virtual reality, the journalist said she encountered many “Sorrow ” : Mostly young and immature players who intentionally annoy or even harass other users. Early in his adventure, an adult man with a “boy under 10” voice yelled at him in what amounted to obscenity. Another pretended to cough incessantly, giggled and said, “Sorry! I have Covid.”

…with “more men than women”

During her virtual saga, she participated in a “concert, church service, conference, and speed dating event”. Although there was a promise to discover people from all over the world (Israelis, Bulgarians, etc.), the journalist also notes that she met very few women.

A note I noticed when it arrived horizon places, During my first dating experience. Her avatar is then taken to the main hall, a “vast room with a tree in the middle,” where she happens to be “the only woman among a dozen men.”

Unless she fails to tell them by asking her “there are more men than women here, don’t you think?”. Then the small group of male avatars silently surrounded her for pictures before giving her shots one by one. An experience she described as “embarrassing”, as it felt “like a sample”.

What raises the question of supervising this new medium based on interactions with virtual reality that are richer and more immersive than those we have behind the keyboard arises. “There appears to be very little measure in place to prevent bad behaviour,” the journalist laments, even if there are functions that make it possible to block and mute problematic users’ microphones.

hard moderation

“My conclusion was that many of the challenges Zuckerberg faced on social media, such as banning children and controlling bullying, could also haunt him in the metaverse,” Parmy Olson said in his post.

Moderation in these virtual reality worlds will be a huge challenge for Meta going forward. As thousands of moderators work nonstop across Facebook and Instagram to remove hateful and misleading information and other posts, modifying Metaverse user behavior promises to be even more challenging.

Indeed, in the virtual world, it is not enough to select messages, photos or videos and edit problematic content – something Facebook is not necessarily able to do correctly worldwide. But in the Metaverse, it will also be necessary to analyze oral language or live gestures, which can be more complex to moderate.

Meta already warns that “trained security specialists” can isolate and record an incident if necessary. But will it be enough to avoid problematic interactions in the Metaverse?

See also on The HuffPost: Meta: Concerns the Facebook metaverse as much as you care

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