A researcher for a non-profit was “virtually raped” in Meta’s Horizon Worlds metaverse application. In the report, another user “watched and passed around a bottle of vodka” while the event happened.
An hour into the metaverse, the 21-year-old female researcher for the nonprofit SumOfUs was led into “a private room at a party where she was raped by a user who kept telling her to turn around so he could do it from behind while users outside the window could see.” During this encounter, another user “watched and passed around a vodka bottle.”
Watch the encounter provided by SumOfUs in their report.
The act was described as “non-consensual.” The researcher said that it was “disorienting” and “confusing.”
“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,” said the unnamed researcher.
Meta told DailyMail that the researcher did not have a safety tool turned on called the Personal Boundary feature to prevent such interactions. The feature stops non-friendlies from coming within 4ft to your avatar and is the the default setting in Meta’s Horizon Worlds.
“In Horizon Worlds, Personal Boundary is default on at almost 4ft for non-friends to make it easier to avoid unwanted interactions,” the spokesperson from Meta said. “We don’t recommend turning off the safety feature with people you do not know.”
Meta put out Horizon Worlds in December of 2021. The virtual reality game allows people to play games and build virtual worlds with their friends.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants the metaverse to be a shared virtual space where the company can make commodities out of avatars and online interactions.
The report from the nonprofit shows that it is rife with problems. It also highlighted that an anonymous beta tester complained of being “groped by a stranger” while in Horizon Worlds.
“Meta not only failed to take action against the aggressor, but actually
blamed the beta tester for inadequate use of personal safety features,” said the report from SumOfUs.
There was another case involving a woman named Nina Jane Patel. She said she was “virtually gang raped” within 60 seconds of logging onto Horizon Worlds by a group of 3-4 male-appearing avatars.
“Patel was “groped aggressively” and “verbally and sexually harassed,” becoming a target for suggestive and lewd remarks due to her avatar’s outwardly female appearance,” continued the report.
There are several more instances mentioned, which the nonprofit blames on the culture at Meta. In it, they point to a habit of the company blaming complaints on the users instead of the platform.
The nonprofit SumOfUs describes themselves as a nonprofit that use their “power as consumers, workers and investors to hold the biggest companies in the world to account.”
The report finalizes by saying that regulators “must address the anti competitive practices of Mark Zuckerberg. Meta must not be allowed to buy out major software, hardware, and even streamers in the VR world without thorough scrutiny from regulators.”
Do you think we will see more stories like this as we move increasingly into the digital world?