Researcher’s avatar was sexually assaulted on a metaverse platform owned by Meta, making her the latest victim of sexual abuse on Meta’s platforms, watchdog says

  • A non-profit advocacy group claims that a researcher’s avatar has been breached in the metaverse.
  • Other Meta users have also reported being sexually harassed or abused in the Metaverse.
  • Meta investors wanted a report on the damages faced by metaverse users, but shareholders rejected the idea.

A researcher entered the Metaverse wanting to study user behavior on Meta’s social networking platform, Horizon World. But within an hour of donning her Oculus virtual reality headset, she says, her avatar was breached in virtual space.

Metaverse: Another Cesspool of Toxic Content“, a new report published Tuesday by the nonprofit advocacy group SumOfUs, details the researcher’s violent encounter in Meta’s Horizon World.

According to the SumOfUs account, users invited the researcher to a private party on Horizon World earlier this month. Users in the same room then asked him to turn off a setting which prevented others from coming within 4 feet of her.

The report related to a video what the group says shows what happened to the researcher’s avatar from their point of view. In the video, a male avatar is seen approaching her, while another male avatar stands nearby, watching her. A bottle of what appears to be alcohol is then passed between the two avatars, according to the 28-second video. Two male voices make obscene 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 telling her to turn around so he could do it from behind while users outside the window could see – while another user in the room watched and passed around a bottle of vodka,” according to the report.

Even though it happened in virtual reality, the incident left the researcher “disoriented”, she said in the report. The researcher noted that her controller vibrated when the male avatars touched her, causing a physical sensation resulting from what she was experiencing online.

“Part of my brain was like WTF was happening, the other part was like it wasn’t a real body, and another part was like, this is important research,” she said. in the report.

SumOfUs researchers also reported experiencing homophobic and racial slurs in Horizon World and said they witnessed gun violence on the platform.

Meta spear Horizon Worlds in December to users 18 and older in the United States and Canada. In February, there were at least 300,000 users on the platform, according at The Verge.

Four other users also recently reported that their avatars had been sexually assaulted or harassed in Horizon World and other Meta VR platforms, according to the SumOfUs report.

In November, a beta tester reported that his avatar had been groped in Horizon Worlds.

At the time, a representative for Meta, Kristina Milian, said MIT Technology Review that users should have “a positive experience with easy-to-find security tools – and it’s never the user’s fault if they don’t use all the features we offer.” She continued, “We will continue to improve our user interface and better understand how people use our tools so they can report things easily and reliably. Our goal is to make Horizon Worlds safe, and we are committed to doing that job. “

But the following month, a metaverse researcher named Nina Jane Patel said in a post on Medium that within 60 seconds of joining Horizon Worlds, three to four male-looking avatars raped his avatar.

That same month, the New York Times reported that a player’s avatar was tampered with on a shooter owned by Meta. Also, a player on the sports game Echo VR said a male player told her that he had recorded her voice so he could “jerk off” to her swear words.

SumOfUs and Meta did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment. In response to the SumOfUs report, a representative from Meta told the Daily Mail it didn’t recommend “turning off the security feature with people you don’t know”.

At least 2 major metaverse investors have expressed concern over emerging details of harassment and abuse on its metaverse platforms

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Meta has staked its future on building its immersive metaverse virtual reality. He invested 10 billion dollars in the design of the metaverse. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is playing the long game with his investment, recently saying the project could continue to lose money for three to five years, Insider reported.

At least two major Meta investors, however, have been alarmed by emerging details of harassment and abuse on its metaverse platforms.

In December, investors Arjuna Capital and Storebrand Asset Management, along with SumOfUs and several other advocacy organizations, co-filed a movement demanding that Meta publish a report examining the harm users might face on its metaverse platforms, they said in a press release.

“Investors need to understand the extent of this potential damage and determine whether it’s a good idea or not before throwing money after the bad,” Arjuna Capital managing partner Natasha Lamb said in a statement. the press release.

At Wednesday of Meta shareholder meeting, a proposal was presented to carry out a third-party assessment of “potential damages to the psychological, civil and human rights of users that may be caused by the use and abuse of the platform” and “whether the damages may be mitigated or avoided, or are unavoidable risks inherent in the technology.”

However, the proposal was rejected.

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 soil – will not be identical to those currently in place for social media” and “nor should they be”.

But, he continued: “In the physical world, as well as on the internet, people are shouting and swearing and doing all kinds of nasty things that aren’t prohibited by law, and they’re harassing and attacking people from around the world. a way that are. The metaverse is going to be no different. People who want to abuse technology will always find ways to do so.

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