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Friday, December 09, 2022

Woman says she was literally ‘served’ in Facebook’s VR metaverse, investigation begins

A woman claims she was virtually “groped” in the virtual reality world, and an investigation has been launched. A woman believes she was sexually assaulted while testing a virtual world from Meta – the company formerly known as Facebook.

The alleged victim was a beta tester on the VR platform “Horizon Worlds” – a “social experience where you can explore, play and create.” Virtual worlds allow users to “design their own worlds or get to know other members of the community and be inspired by their creations.” The Virtual Reality Metaverse offers “interactive puzzles” and “action-packed games”.

The woman claims that she was virtually “grossed” during the trial period on November 26.

Tech blog The Verge first reported the incident:

Security is a big concern for VR environments like Horizon Worlds, where you can easily interact with someone you don’t know. Earlier this month, a beta tester posted to the official Horizon group on Facebook how a stranger groped her avatar. “Sexual harassment is no joke on the regular Internet, but being in VR adds another layer that makes the incident all the more intense,” she wrote. “Not only was I groped last night, but there were other people out there who supported the behavior that made me feel isolated in the plaza.”

Following the woman’s allegation that she had virtually “groped,” META launched an investigation into the incident. The company – formerly known as Facebook – determined that the tester did not activate a security feature designed to prevent harassment on the platform.

Vivek Sharma – Meta’s vice president of Horizon – called the incident “absolutely unfortunate” and acknowledged that the tech company needs to work on making the security blocking feature “trivially easy and searchable”.

The “Safe Zone” option allows users who feel threatened to press the “Blue Shield Button” which “takes you to the Safe Zone, where you can escape and take a break.”

META spokeswoman Christina Milian told MIT Technology Review, “We want everyone at Horizon Worlds to have a positive experience with safety equipment that’s easy to find—and it’s not the user’s fault if they don’t care about what we provide.” Don’t use all of the features offered. “We will continue to improve our UI and better understand how people use our tools so that users can easily and reliably report things. Our goal is to make Horizon Worlds safer, and We are committed to making that work.”

On December 9, Meta opened Horizon Worlds in North America to users 18 years of age and older.

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