When Mark Zuckerberg presented the Metaverse last year, he promised a virtual world that would benefit our society by bringing it closer, but it seems that we are far from that. A researcher, who was studying users’ behavior on one of its virtual reality platforms, claims to be a victim of sexual assault within the platform.
But this is not the only cause, the study published by SumOfUs, a nonprofit advocacy group, called “Metaverse: another cesspool of toxic content”, enlists different cases by different researchers that were drawn to abusive situations that, ultimately, spoiled the experience within the metaverse.
According to the study, one of the researchers was invited to a private party on Horizon World, a social-networking app that enables users to create and interact in unique digital rooms. Later, users in the same room asked her to disable a setting that let strangers get closer to her and took her to a room where, according to the researcher, two men started assaulting her.
Even though it happened in virtual reality, the incident left the researcher “disoriented,” she said in the report. The researcher also noted how her controller vibrated when the male avatars touched her, resulting in a physical sensation that was a result of what she was experiencing online.
Regarding the experience of being sexually assaulted in VR, the researcher said: “It happened so fast I kind of disassociated. One part of my brain was like wtf is happening, the other part was like this isn’t a real body, and another part was like, this is important research.”
In a separate case, Nina Jane Patel, VP of Metaverse Research, recollects how one time she was assaulted by a group of male members within a second of entering Horizon World and later being blamed for such action for choosing a female character or even other users let her know that such actions are super common in VR environments or group games likes Fortnite.
Besides encountering sexual assault problems, researchers also faced racial and homophobic issues that are raising the alarms for creating a toxic and violent virtual environment with no regulations.
As SumOfUs concludes, “Meta has repeatedly demonstrated that it is unable to adequately monitor and respond to harmful content on Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp – so it is no surprise that it is already failing on the Metaverse too.”