Rape in the metaverse: Are there solutions?

Mark Zuckerberg launched the metaverse, a world that connects people online with great optimism. But as Meta (formerly Facebook) expands access to its virtual reality (VR) platform, stories of women experiencing rape, assault and sexual harassment in the metaverse are also piling up.

Metaverses are open worlds where hundreds or thousands of people socialize. This can be done under the guise of a game, such as ” Fortnite ” Where ” World of Warcraft » or social simulators like « Second Life “.

The advantage of metaverse VR is that they are more immersive. Unfortunately, this characteristic of the metaverse also makes abuse more damning. This is especially true when users are equipped with vests and tags unwanted touches. Because of this, sexual assault in the metaverse is a problem we need to solve. But do cases of rape really exist in the metaverse? What solutions are in place to prevent and address sexual harassment in this space?

Cases of rape in the metaverse have multiplied

Despite the relatively young age of the metaverse, there are already countless cases of violence in this virtual space. The most famous ones are those from a SumOfUs researcher and a Facebook metaverse beta tester.

SumOfUs researcher avatar practically violated

metaverse rape

A researcher from SumOfUs used the platform Horizon worlds of Meta to conduct studies of social relations in the metaverse. Shortly after beginning the experiment, she was surrounded in a room by two male avatars. One of them has it raped. Plus he kept telling her sexually offensive comments. Other users saw them. Another passed around a bottle of vodka.

This appears from a report from the organization. But on social media, some people made fun of it. Individuals have claimed that “rape” is too strong a word to apply to what happened in the metaverse.

“With only 300,000 users, it’s remarkable how fast Horizon Worlds has become breeding ground for harmful content a SumOfUs report said at the time. “Without urgent action, it will only get worse. Until regulators hold Meta accountable for damages seen on its platforms, weaken its grip on tech industries, and rein in its reckless data collection practices, the metaverse will very likely remain a darker, more toxic environment “.

Nina Patel, victim of sexual assault in the metaverse

metaverse rape

Last December, the virtual reality researcher Nina Patel is claimed to have been subjected to a rape. The action was carried out by a group of four male avatars in Horizon Worlds. They gathered around her. And groping for his avatar, they screamed obscene comments like “Don’t pretend you don’t like it”. She started leaking when she took off her Oculus Quest 2 headset and she could still hear them.

“It was surreal,” supported Patel about his experience. “Virtual reality was fundamentally designed so that the mind and body cannot distinguish between virtual/digital experiences and real experiences. To some extent, my physiological and psychological reaction was as if it happened in reality “. “It was a nightmare,” she said.

Nina Patel couldn’t report the assault to the police. She was also unable to file a complaint, although she clearly saw the faces of her attackers. The reason is that Patel’s assault did not take place in the real world. It happened in the metaverse.

Rape in the metaverse is traumatic for the victims

a traumatic experience for the victims

Abuse in the metaverse is likely to be as endemic as on social networks. But these incidents illustrate how much more traumatic they could be of the immersive experience these worlds offer. For those like Patel who experience digital sexual harassment, it can be degrading and emotionally devastating.

Therefore, VR worlds must offer better protection and tools for their users. Social media moderators already have a difficult but crucial job. But in the metaverse, they’ll probably have to behave more like a police force patrol the streets of a big city. Instead of removing content afterwards, they should find abuse while it’s happening.

Moderating the metaverse, a difficult mission

The Metaverse will be much harder to moderate than existing social media. On social networks you can block people who hurt you. As for moderators, they can delete malicious content. But even with all that, platforms like Facebook and Twitter still abound harmful content.

metaverse moderation

In the metaverse, in addition to extensive moderation, companies will need systems for limit abuse in the first place. This will be difficult enough in browser-based metaverses, where as in MMO games (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) today damage can be done via voice chat. It will be even more complex in VR worlds where you can be touched virtually and have your space invaded.

Meta’s Chief Technology Officer, Andrew Bosworth, said it is virtually impossible to moderate users “on any meaningful scale.” But he also called the widespread harassment a “existential threat” to the success of the metaverse.

Meta implements tools to prevent rape in the metaverse

As it improves Horizon Worlds, Meta has added safety measures as the function Personal limit. When activated, it prevents people from approaching within one meter of your avatar. “In Horizon Worlds, Personal Boundary is enabled by default at approx 1.2 meters for non-friends. And it makes it easier to avoid unwanted interactions. a Meta spokesperson said.

“We believe that Personal Boundary is a strong example of how virtual reality has the potential to help people interact comfortably. It is an important step and there is still a lot of work to be done,” the company explained.

The personal limit

Aaron Stanton, co-creator of the Oculus QuiVR archery game, and its co-designer implemented a gesture that allowed users, if threatened, to repel attackers. Now director of the VR Health Institute, he believes that developers should focus more on these worlds features that allow users to prevent breaks in the metaverse. On the contrary, he says, the protection tools are often inadequate and can render abused people helpless.

“The problem with pure protection tool, is that they leave the threat still inside the helmet,” he explained. Protective tools “don’t really remove the threat”. “They’re just blocking it online. I think we need solutions to that actually deal with the problem without forcing players to leave the virtual space,” he added.

The various features to protect you from rape in Horizon World’s metaverse

Before you venture into Horizon World’s metaverse, here are some features to help you avoid harassment in this world.

  • Function personal bubble : This essentially corresponds to a force field. She is enabled by default against anyone not on your friends list. No one can enter this bubble and approach you unless they are on your friends list or you voluntarily turn it off. If you want, you can activate personal bubble against everyonewhether they are your friends or not.
  • The “Mute” feature: Horizon Worlds allows you to silence someoneespecially those who make rude comments to you.
  • The possibility of block people : This feature can make people disappear and completely unable to interact with you.
  • that vote to block: If someone is a general nuisance to others, you can vote anonymously remove this person from the world. Presumably, with enough votes, a person can be recognized as a nuisance and removed.
  • That “Monitors”: Meta automatically saves the last few seconds of interaction. When a user is reported, a moderator can view the last few seconds of that person’s interaction to see what happened. Thus, no one can lie about having been harassed.

About laws and rules in the metaverse

Laws and rules

Virtual worlds are built for reflects the physical world. Here you can attend concerts, visit casinos or meet a friend for coffee. But when it comes to regulation, the law is not reflected in the real world. A code and terms for service agreements rmanage these digital spaces. Therefore, some wonder if it is enough.

Regulators are struggling to understand what their jurisdiction in the metaverse. How existing laws apply to digital assets, land, data and privacy? Moreover civil and criminal law that apply to interpersonal interactions are often overlooked.

This is crucial given the role of the metaverse in becoming part of how we will interact in the future. Regulators will wrestle with this question as the metaverse grows and real people suffer consequences and real damages in these virtual spaces.

that National Resource Center for Sexual Violencean American non-profit organization, found it 81% of women and 43% of men claimed to have suffered one some form of violence or sexual abuse in their lives. So human interaction in the real world has taught us something. We can expect to hear more stories like Nina Patel’s in the metaverse.

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