Alarming accounts of women who have been sexually assaulted and harassed are piling up in the Metaverse, according to online watchdogs.
A 21-year-old woman said she was raped less than an hour after being in the Metaverse area, according to a new report from SumOfUs, a “nonprofit advocacy organization and online community that campaigns to hold responsible companies accountable” for a variety of alleged abuses.
The report – titled “Metaverse: Another Cesspool for Toxic Content” – delves into allegations that a woman was “almost gang-raped”, hate speech and content moderation issues at Meta, the controversial new photo on Facebook Inc.
The young woman who is a researcher in the group is taken to a private room during a party in “Horizon Worlds,” the metaverse platform that Meta launched last December in the US and Canada that allows users to meet others, play games and build their own virtual worlds.
She claimed her character was then raped by one user while another watched and swiped around a virtual vodka bottle – and the others could be seen looking through the window.
In a spooky video posted by SumOfUs, an avatar was recorded saying, “Look at this. It’s a free show. Oh, I see. Get down with such courage, I heard.” Meanwhile, an avatar answers the spectator with “You’ll need more of that, boy.” ’, while swiping a virtual liquor bottle. “Hello, free offer!” Then an avatar scream is heard.
When one user collides with another in the metaverse, the controllers vibrate, “creating a very confusing and disturbing physical experience during a virtual attack.”
“It happened so quickly that I kind of distanced myself. Part of my brain was like ‘WTF is happening,’ another part was like ‘This is not a real body’, and the other part was like ‘This is important research,'” the anonymous researcher said in the report.
The agency also noted that “VR users have long reported issues of sexual harassment, verbal abuse, racial slurs, and invasion of personal space on countless apps.”
“Minimum moderation” in these virtual reality worlds allowed behavior related to “thriving.” . . Especially towards avatars with a feminine and feminine appearance.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has led a massive campaign to move his company into the Metaverse, a fully digital virtual reality environment that can be accessed via headphones or similar technology.
When faced with the horrific attack that occurred in the metaverse, a Meta spokesperson indicated that the Seeker had disabled the Personal Boundary feature.
The feature was launched in February as a security tool that is enabled by default and prevents non-friends from getting within 4 feet of your avatar.
Meta representatives did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment, but a company spokesperson told the Daily Mail: “We do not recommend disabling the security feature with people you don’t know. You don’t know.”
They also point to several other security tools aimed at helping people stay safe in virtual reality environments, including the Safe Zone button, which allows users to block and report people who are harassing you or some inappropriate content.
“We want everyone who uses our products to have a good experience and easily find tools that can help in situations like these, so we can investigate and take action,” the Meta spokesperson added.
The SumOfUs report also mentioned other cases of sexual harassment that occurred in the metaverse.
An anonymous “Horizon Worlds” beta tester filed a complaint in the app claiming that “his profile picture was touched by a stranger.”
In 2021, Kabuni Co-Founder and Vice President of Metaverse Research Nina Jane Patel shared her experience of “verbal and sexual harassment” within 60 seconds of logging in to “Horizon Worlds.” She stated that three to four of the avatars had “group raped” and took pictures making vulgar statements.
While logging into the “Population One” app, which is owned by Meta, Chanelle Siggens said another player approached her, then “pretend to grope and mute over her avatar”. Another user of Population One, Marie DeGrazia, said she saw harassment more than three times a week on the app. DeGrazia also suffered abuse while wearing a VR jacket, when “another player touched her avatar’s chest.”
While exploring the metaverse associated with “Lone Echo VR”, another Meta-owned app, Sidney Smith encountered “lewd and sexist remarks” in which another player claimed to have “recorded them”. [voice]For a “jerk”. After the disturbing incident, Smith described having an in-game player reporting issue.
SumOfUs said that harassment and assault are not isolated to Meta-owned apps, but noted that many of the apps can be accessed through the Meta Oculus Quest headset.
The report indicated three main steps that must be taken to regulate the world of virtual reality.
- First, according to the report, “regulators must address Mark Zuckerberg’s predatory and anti-competitive practices.”
- Second, “It is concerning that as yet the US does not have sufficient data protection laws to protect consumers from abusive data collection practices across all platforms, allowing companies like Meta to sell data to third parties with little oversight.”
- Third, while the Digital Services Act (DSA) is enshrined in law in Europe, other governments around the world should “use this landmark legislation as a model for regulating major tech companies in their jurisdictions.”
Another report found that incidents of sexual harassment and assault in the Metaverse are generally met with “disapproving, abusive, and misogynistic” responses, according to the MIT Technology Review.
However, on a larger scale, the majority of American adults agree that online harassment is a problem, with 41% saying they have experienced some form of harassment in digital spaces, according to a Pew Research study.
Jesse Fox, an associate professor at Ohio State University who studies the social effects of virtual reality, told MIT: “People should keep in mind that sexual harassment doesn’t have to be a physical thing. It can be verbal, and yes, it can also be. Virtual experience.