- An ideal advocacy group says that a researcher’s avatar was raped in the metaverse.
- Other Meta users have also said that they were sexually harassed or abused in the metaverse.
- Meta-investors wanted a report on injuries that metaverse users face, but shareholders rejected the idea.
A researcher went into the meta-verse and wanted to study user behavior on Meta’s social networking platform Horizon World. But within an hour of putting on her Oculus virtual reality headset, she says, her avatar was raped in the virtual space.
“Metaverse: another cesspool of toxic content,” a new report published by the nonprofit group SumOfUs on Tuesday, describes the researcher’s violent encounter in Meta’s Horizon World.
According to SumOfU’s account, users invited the researcher to a private party at Horizon World earlier this month. Users in the same room then asked her to disable a setting that prevented others from coming within 4 feet of her.
The report linked to a video that the group says shows what happened to the researcher’s avatar from her perspective. In the video, a male avatar is seen getting very close to her, while another male avatar is standing nearby and watching. A bottle of what appears to be alcohol is then sent between the two avatars, according to the 28-second video. Two male voices are heard making lewd comments in the video.
In part of the video SumOfUs chose not to share, but to describe, the researcher was “led into a private room at a party where she was raped by a user who kept asking her to turn around so he could do it from behind while users outside the window. could see – all while another user in the room watched and sent around a vodka bottle, “according to the report.
Although it happened in virtual reality, the incident made the researcher “disoriented”, she said in the report. The researcher noticed that her controller vibrated when the male avatars touched her, which resulted in a physical sensation that was a result of what she experienced online.
“One part of my brain was as if WTF was happening, the other part was as if this is not a real body, and another part was as if this is important research,” she said in the report.
SumOfUs researchers also reported that they experienced homophobic and racist statements in Horizon World and said that they witnessed gun violence on the platform.
Meta launched Horizon Worlds in December for users 18 and older in the United States and Canada. In February, there were at least 300,000 users on the platform, according to The Verge.
Four other users also recently said that their avatars were sexually assaulted or harassed in Horizon World and other Meta VR platforms, according to the SumOfUs report.
In November, a beta tester reported that her avatar had been groped in Horizon Worlds.
At the time, a Meta representative, Kristina Milian, told the MIT Technology Review that users should have “a positive experience with easy-to-find security tools – and it’s never a user’s fault if they do not use all the features we offer.” continued: “We will continue to improve our user interface and to better understand how people use our tools so that users can report things easily and reliably. Our goal is to make Horizon Worlds safe, and we are committed to doing that work.”
But the following month, a meta-researcher named Nina Jane Patel said in a post on Medium that within 60 seconds of joining Horizon Worlds, three to four male avatars gang-raped her avatar.
The same month, The New York Times reported that a female player’s avatar was groped on a Meta-owned shooter. Separately, a player on the sports game Echo VR said that a male player told her that he had recorded her voice so that he could “pull off” her curse.
SumOfUs and Meta did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. In response to the SumOfUs report, a Meta representative told the Daily Mail that it did not recommend “turning off the security feature with people you do not know.”
At least 2 major metaverse investors expressed concern over new details of harassment and abuse on their metaverse platforms
Meta has invested the future in building its immersive metaverse virtual reality. It plowed $ 10 billion into designing the meta-verse. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is playing the long game with his investment, and recently said the project could continue to lose money for three to five years, Insider reported.
However, at least two major Meta investors were intimidated by new details about harassment and abuse on their metaverse platforms.
In December, investors Arjuna Capital and Storebrand Asset Management, along with SumOfUs and several other law firms, filed a lawsuit requiring Meta to publish a report examining any damage users may encounter on their metaverse platforms, they said in a press release.
“Investors need to understand the extent of these potential damages, and consider whether this is a good idea or not before throwing good money after bad,” Arjuna Capital CEO Natasha Lamb said in the release.
At Meta’s shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday, a proposal was presented to complete a third party assessment of “potential psychological and civil and human rights damage to users that may be caused by use and misuse of the platform” and “whether damage can be reduced or avoided, or are unavoidable risks such as lies in technology. “
However, the proposal was voted down.
Earlier this month, Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta Platforms, said in a blog post that “the rules and security features of the metaverse – regardless of the floor – will not be identical to those currently in place for social media” and “it should neither shall they be. “
But, he continued: “In the physical world, as well as on the internet, people are shouting and cursing and doing all sorts of unpleasant things that are not forbidden by law, and they are harassing and attacking people in ways that are. Metaversen will not be “People who want to abuse technology will always find ways to do it.”