Female avatars are sexually assaulted on Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse platforms
A female avatar on Facebook’s parent Meta platform Horizon Worlds was sexually assaulted, according to the report by advocacy group SumOfUs.
The 21-year-old, who works for SumOfUs as a researcher, was in a virtual room on Horizon Worlds, a metaverse platform released last December in the United States and Canada. She was in the room with two male avatars making lewd comments to her, and one of them was very close to her. SumOfUs included a clip from the event in its report this month focusing on issues of sexual violence, hate speech, and content moderation at Meta.
Sexual harassment is a recurring issue that SumOfUs investigates. Earlier this year, another woman named Nina Jane Patel said she was “virtually gang raped” within a minute of logging on to Horizon. A group of three to four male avatars groped and “verbally and sexually harassed” her avatar, who became “a target of suggestive and lewd remarks due to her avatar’s outwardly feminine appearance,” the SumOfUs report notes.
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Another user, Chanelle Siggens, was approached by a player of “Population: One”, a virtual reality game created by a publisher owned by Meta, when the avatar simulated “groping and cumming on her avatar”, according to the report. Others report being harassed several times a week on these virtual platforms.
Although Meta added some security measures as these reports surfaced, the research group said these actions were not enough to address sexual harassment in the Metaverse. Moreover, these behaviors occur in applications other than those owned by Meta. Many of these are accessible through Oculus Quest from Meta, the headset maker acquired by Meta in 2014.
“These troubling events are not isolated to applications owned by Meta. VR users have long reported issues of sexual harassment, verbal abuse, racial slurs, and invasion of personal space on a myriad of (non-Meta) apps such as Rec Room , VRChat, and AltspaceVR.25 Many of these apps remain accessible through Meta’s Oculus Quest,” the SumOfUs researchers wrote.
In February, Meta added a personal limit feature that allows Horizon users to set a four-foot distance from other avatars. It is enabled by default and can be disabled by the user. Users also have the option to block others on these apps and report others after a negative experience.
“Developing for virtual reality presents perhaps some of the toughest challenges we’ve faced in a computing generation now that we’re no longer limited by fixed viewpoints and traditional flat-panel devices,” the company said. company in the post. “By preventing avatars from approaching within a set distance of each other, Personal Boundary creates a more personal space for people and makes it easier to avoid unwanted interactions. We’ll continue to iterate and make improvements as we learn more about Personal Boundary’s impact on people’s VR experiences.
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