Meta’s VR Platform Questioned As Female Avatar Suffers Sexual Assault On Horizon Worlds

A lot of questions are now being raised against Meta’s virtual reality platform called Horizon Worlds.

The news comes after the female avatar belonging to a 21-year-old researcher was sexually assaulted through the platform, signaling an alarm for others.

Now, the firm SumOfUs which is related to corporate accountability claims their researcher’s incident is clear proof of how Meta needs to establish better protocols that evade such threatening mishaps from taking place in its Metaverse.

The topic is definitely a major issue for Meta and that’s why it plans on highlighting this aspect during the upcoming shareholder meeting that’s scheduled for this Wednesday.

While recently speaking for an interview with the BBC, Meta revealed how there are a number of tools in place that help counteract such incidents from happening. Hence, the idea is to make sure things continually run smoothly while making sure users leave after having a positive experience.

While Meta admitted that it was yet to see the full report published by SumOfUs, one of the firm spokespeople revealed to the BBC that the company only wished for its users to make use of all the safety protocols in place. Similarly, they want to take matters forward with an investigation into the incident so they can take action against those accountable.

For now, the Avatars are only seen in the form of cartoon characters which is available to users residing in both the US and Canada.

But SumOfUs has really taken matters up forward, adding how such forms of virtual assaults are very traumatic and must be handled with care.

The company’s campaign director continued by mentioning how assault of this kind is still a serious matter that can have lasting impacts on users. And that’s why the researcher who underwent the assault is still in a state of shock because it’s not something you think could happen.

“Yes it may not be your real body and yes, it’s an avatar. But things like this need to be documented for research basis so they don’t happen to anyone else”- the campaign director Vicky Wyatt explained during the BBC podcast.

BBC says that it has seen some of the footage that was captured but obviously it does not involve the female avatar as she was the one capturing it and hence you see things from her perspective only.

Other than that, they revealed how two male avatars were in the same location. One of the males just observes her closely while the other tries to come near her. After making some controversial comments, the duo shares a bottle of virtual drink.

As Metaverse continues to develop and come to life, the creators agree that there’s a lot more work to be done and it continues to be a project that’s in the development phase.

The combination of virtual reality with augmented reality may be a little trickier to handle than what Meta had originally planned and we get that. Remember, the metaverse isn’t restricted to a confined space. There are a number of virtual environments on a 3D level that it entails.

As far as Meta’s ownership is concerned, it’s only restricted to the Horizon World but they’re still thinking of ideas for investments where they’ll acquire a bigger workforce and hire thousands of others to work over it.

If you recall, in the month of February of this year, we saw several reports arise relating to similar virtual assault incidents. And that’s what directly instigated Meta to put forward stricter security safeguards for the virtual world.

This ‘personal boundary’ stops other avatars from moving forward within a fixed distance of another avatar that’s already present in the same location. And that is what avoids such incidents from arising in the first instance.

As Meta says, your personal space belongs to you and it should be respected. Whenever one person tries to come in, the system reacts in a manner that stops it from moving ahead, after reaching a particular boundary.

As far as default settings for this specification are concerned, Meta’s system has outlined it to be about 1.2 meters of virtual distance. This is between both your character as well as any that aren’t a part of your list of friends.

In the same way, Meta has also shed light on ways through which users can block or even report such offenders. And as recently explained by SumOfUs, their researcher was told to disable this safety boundary functionality by those involved in the attack.

In addition, the research talked about how disgraceful comments and homophobic slurs were mentioned, including gun violence discussion.

Now, SumOfUS plans on taking things to the next level with their complaint after a resolution had been filed with some shareholders in regards to the incident. The firm wants a thorough assessment of the risks involved in relation to the impact the metaverse has on human rights.

It’s clear that people want answers and they want Meta to act now before it’s too late.

Read next: Meta Has Recently Issued A Statement, Asking Australia To Loosen Restrictions Over The Company’s Social Media Platforms
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