“Disturbing accounts of women being sexually assaulted and harassed in the metaverse are racking up, according to online watchdogs.” Those are the New York Post allegations in a recent and revelatory article exposing the concerning experiences of users in Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse.
While perhaps not the norm – yet – in the virtual reality landscape, according to the Post, these encounters are far too common and present serious safety obstacles to widespread adoption.
On the one hand, it’s’ hilarious because users opt into a completely fake world, and OF COURSE it’s’ being abused. When hasn’t the internet and its kindred applications not tended toward the profane? But, on the other hand, it’s’ disturbing that this increasingly popular vision for the future is replete with would-be horrific episodes of terror and assault.
The New York Post covered several instances of graphic encounters:
“One 21-year-old woman says she was raped within one hour of being in the metaverse, according to a new report from SumOfUs, a “nonprofit advocacy organization and online community that campaigns to hold corporations accountable” for various alleged allegations infractions.
The young woman, who works as a researcher for the group‚ was led into a private room at a party on “Horizon Worlds,” a metaverse platform released by Meta last December in the US and Canada that allows users to gather with others, play games and build their own virtual worlds.
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She has claimed her avatar was then raped by a user while another watched and passed around a virtual bottle of vodka — and others could be seen watching through a window.”
And there is more from the Post:
“In 2021, co-founder and VP of metaverse research at Kabuni Nina Jane Patel shared her experience of being “verbally and sexually harassed” within 60 seconds of logging onto “Horizon Worlds.” She reported that three to four male avatars “virtually gang raped” her and took photos shouting crude remarks.”
“Logging into the “Population One” app, which is owned by Meta, Chanelle Siggens reported being approached by another player, who then “simulated groping and ejaculating onto her avatar.” Another “Population One” user, Mari DeGrazia, reported witnessing harassment more than three times per week while in the app. DeGrazia also experienced abuse herself while wearing a VR vest when “another player groped her avatar’s chest.””””
It sounds like they have a few issues to work out, to say the least. I admit I am slightly confused because, as a user, wouldn’t you take the headset off or hit “stop” on your device if something unpleasant happening? Just hit restart? I am thoroughly confused about how this episode plays out at all; my understanding of virtual reality is that you are simulating an experience and are always in control back in the real world.
The Post concludes its piece by attempting to reconcile the shortcomings of VR with protocols in place to address abuses.
“When a user is touched by another in the metaverse, the hand controllers vibrate, “creating a very disorienting and even disturbing physical experience during a virtual assault.”
“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,'”‘” the unnamed researcher said in the report.”
Hailey Sanibel fiercely loves freedom. She is a contributing author at Trending Politics and writes regularly at The Blue State Conservative.