Between sexual harassment and annoyance, Facebook is already a toxic place for women – Liberation

The first version of the Facebook metaverse, “Horizon Worlds,” launched in the US and Canada last week. Already, stories of embarrassment, harassment and even sexual assault are being conveyed by its users.

Mark sees his friends, Mark practices cards, Mark admires art… At the Connect 2021 presentation at the end of October, the billionaire CEO of Facebook – now renamed Meta – gave an expression of charity and humor. Having become his new fad, this completely virtual place, in which one is immersed in virtual reality helmets or augmented reality glasses, will be, according to Zuckerberg, “Recovering from the mobile Internet”. Work, go shopping, sports … In the idea, everything would be possible … And obviously, even inconveniences.

A Thousand Leagues of Sponsorship Bearing a vision backed up by California’s great publicity stunt, first comments from users, or more precisely, from users, describe a place conducive to situations“Discomfort”And Harassment and even sexual assault.

However, Horizon Worlds, one of the oldest versions of the Facebook metaverse, only officially launched last week in the US and Canada. Inside, tech buffs have already been able to attend comedy shows, take part in meditation sessions or plunge into writing a few lines of code to create their own game. However, in early December, reports said the edge“betatester”, i.e. the first user of a program or game, who tests it and shows developers what improvements need to be made, indicated that she was a victim of sexual assault in virtual reality.

On the official page of this project on Facebook, she said that her profile picture was affected by another. “Sexual harassment is bad enough online, but being in virtual reality exacerbates this type of event,” You describe it, and perhaps refer to the sometimes very realistic immersion that virtual reality allows. In addition to being “groped”, add that Other people endorsed this behavior. And make him feel “isolated”.

The same story by the American media Bloomberg, Journalist Parmi Olson was able to test the device and recount her experience in an article published on December 15. On her first virtual jump, she chose an avatar that was close to her physical appearance “fact”. She summarizes her experience in these terms: “entertaining”, “exciting”, but also “Extreme, tiring and often embarrassing.”

As soon as she reaches the parlour of the Horizon Venues, a unit of the metaverse somewhat dedicated to events, she notices that she is the only woman out of dozens of men. Within a few moments, Barmi Olson tells that it was “Surprise” Through the avatar zoomed in a few centimeters away from her. Soon, a group of male avatars formed around them and remained silent. Still others have taken a picture of him…so many experiences that, in real life as in virtual reality, can be oppressive.

The journalist warns on her Twitter account: If many meetings are friendly, “Harassment and intimidating behavior happen so often that I think issues of harassment and ‘grievance’ [fait d’irriter volontairement et de harceler d’autres joueurs, ndlr] that have been in games for years is coming to social virtual reality.” With a major conclusion: “Togo” [dans le métavers] As a woman she was also very uncomfortable at times.”

To protect its users from such situations, Meta, in Horizon Worlds, offers a function that allows the activation of a safety zone around its avatar. To do this, they have to press a button on their virtual wrist. Then other users are muted. from Security professionals The company can also find the scene recording if there is a report.

asked by the edge In the first testimony, Vivek Sharma, Vice President of Horizon Worlds, notes that ‘A very unfortunate accident’ And that after verification, the user did not activate the applicable protection system. “For us, this is helpful feedback because we want to improve our security services and make them more accessible,” He argues.

To find out all of the above: These stories of aggression and sexual harassment in the realms of virtual reality are far from being the first. In a high-profile case in 2016, a user of the shooting game QuiVr accused another player of actually touching her chest without her consent. The experience shocked her, especially since she was already a victim of similar realities in the real world.

Finally, between the two, I noticed that the feeling was intense “similar”. To prevent history from repeating itself, the game developers then suggested setting up a deck to get rid of the other player. Other virtual reality games use systems that mute or block users. For example, Microsoft’s AltspaceVR platform sometimes includes intermediaries in the form of avatars.

But legally, what do you think? as mentioned NomiramaEven if it occurs in a virtual environment, sexual harassment can, In France, they are punished with penalties ranging from one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 15,000 euros to three years and 45,000 euros, as defined in Article 222-16 of the Penal Code. By legal definition, sexual assault – “Any sexual offense committed with violence, coercion, threat or surprise” – It can also be recognized in virtual reality. Note: If the alleged acts are committed by the French, on national soil, the fact that the metaverse is a corporation in California does not preclude the initiation of potential legal action. In 2000, an unofficial Avatar Rights Act was drafted by Raph Koster, an American online game developer. Perhaps it is time for national and international authorities to take advantage of this idea and update it?

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