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Sexual harassment in the virtual universe

Sexual harassment in the virtual universe

Some users find it annoying to be in close contact with male avatars in the metaverse, but others consider it just a virtual touch.

In the past week, Goal – parent company of Facebook – Open access to the Horizon Worlds virtual reality platform for adults in the US and Canada. The initial descriptions of the platform are quite interesting and seem sensible. In Meta’s virtual universe, players appear as 3D avatars, chatting, creating and exploring the world together. But then Meta received a report from a user that she had been groped.

“Sexual harassment is not a joke on the Internet, but in the world of virtual reality, things get more serious. It is worth mentioning that while I was in trouble, people close to me showed their support,” posted an anonymous girl in the Horizon Worlds group of experiences. She said that when she joined the virtual universe, there were strangers who intentionally “touched” her profile picture, making her feel uncomfortable even though she was in a virtual reality environment.

In response, Meta said that the trial version has a tool called Safe Zone, but this person forgot to use it. Safe Zone is a “bubble of protection” that users can activate when they feel threatened. At that time, no one can touch, speak or interact with them in any way until the user actively turns off the “protection bubble”.

The Safe Zone feature in Horizon Worlds. Photo: Facebook

Vivek Sharma, vice president of Horizon Worlds, said the company regrets the incident. “However, that feedback is good for the company and we will make the Safe Zone feature easier to use,” said Sharma. The edge.

Follow Technology reviewThis isn’t the first time users have been harassed in the virtual reality space, and it won’t be the last. The above incidents show that, metaverse It’s never a safe place until companies figure out how to protect users.

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The fact that users are harassed in the virtual universe has become a controversial topic on social networks. Some questioned whether the girl in the story was actually groped when someone simply “used a cartoon character to get closer to another cartoon character.” Many people also wonder if what happened to the girl is really serious because no one really hurt her body.

“People should remember that sexual harassment is not just limited to physical acts. It can be a verbal or virtual experience,” said Jesse Fox, an associate professor at Ohio State University who has years of research. The social impact of virtual reality, he says.

Katherine Cross, a researcher on online bullying at the University of Washington, also says that as virtual reality technology gradually becomes “more real,” the malicious behavior that occurs in that environment is too. “The spatial nature of virtual reality is designed to mislead the user into believing that they are in a certain space, that all their bodily actions take place in a 3D environment,” Cross said.

More importantly, it is the responsibility of the application developer to provide users with tools to ensure that they are safe while accessing the platforms. “We want everyone at Horizon Worlds to have a positive experience with safe, easy-to-find tools. It could be user error if they don’t use all of the features we offer,” said Kristina Milian, Meta spokesperson.

However, many Horizon Words participants do not believe that the problem is in using the Safe Zone or not. Application developers must find a way to establish rules, “police” in virtual space to prevent harassment and vandalism before it occurs.

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According to Professor Jesse Fox, the community needs deterrent measures, ensuring that misbehaving accounts are caught early for immediate ban. What is happening in Meta also exposes a dangerous reality about the virtual universe. Legal regulations and user protection are not being prioritized for development. No unit can take ultimate responsibility for the safety of users in the metaverse. Until the entire community makes positive changes and takes protecting the mental and physical health of users more seriously, the metaverse remains a space fraught with danger.

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