Meta is implementing steps to cut down online harassment following a recent incident where a woman came forward about being victim to a sexual assault while beta testing the Horizon Worlds VR platform.
43-year-old Nina Jane Patel described the awful ordeal in a medium post “Within 60 seconds of joining — I was verbally and sexually harassed — 3-4 male avatars, with male voices, essentially, but virtually gang raped my avatar and took photos — as I tried to get away they yelled — ‘don’t pretend you didn’t love it’ and ‘go rub yourself off to the photo.’”
Patel explains how VR’s immersive design can make it difficult for the mind to tell the difference between virtual and real-life experiences. “In some capacity, my physiological and psychological response was as though it happened in reality,” Patel said.
Meta Adding A Personal Boundary Feature
Meta, formerly Facebook, is a technology corporation that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The company has set its sights on the metaverse, acquiring VR headset creator Oculus in 2014. Furthering its metaverse goals, Meta recently made an announcement, introducing its supercomputer. Likewise, Meta promise more inclusive avatar customizations will be available soon.
To combat future harassment, Meta is implementing a personal boundary feature to prevent avatars from invading one another’s personal space. According to a blog post on the Oculus website, if an individual tries to enter an avatar’s personal space, “the system will halt their forward movement as they reach the boundary. You won’t feel it—there is no haptic feedback.”
The post goes on to explain how this new feature builds upon the hand harassment measures already in place. The hand harassment feature makes an avatar’s hands disappear when they are invading someone’s personal space. With the personal Boundary feature in place, avatars won’t be able to be within four feet (1.2 meters) of one another.
Meta is also facing safety concerns regarding children, with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office investigating Meta for multiple breaches in the safety code to protect children.
“Harassment in the metaverses is a serious issue that the industry needs to come together on to put in place the correct security controls and safety measures,” Patel told The Post. “This is/will continue to be problematic for both men and women (adults) as our world fast moves from the 2D internet as we know it — into the 3D internet space (The Metaverse).”