Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, has had to deal with its first case of virtual sexual harassment. The assault took place in the virtual world of Horizon Worlds, which opened to the general public at the beginning of December (for the moment only in the USA and Canada) but which until now was available in beta phase for a small community of virtual reality lovers.
First case of virtual sexual harassment reported in Facebook metaverse
The assault took place in the virtual world of Horizon Worlds, which was opened to the general public at the beginning of December.
Horizon Worlds is a kind of chat room in which participants have a cartoonish appearance. They can give any physical appearance to their avatar, although it will always appear as a floating, legless torso.
They can also shape the scenery as they wish. It is designed for up to 20 people to interact simultaneously and collaborate in the creation of the world around them.
They can turn it into a playground or simply decorate it as they like while chatting with each other. Access is free, but requires the use of one of Meta’s proprietary Oculus virtual reality headsets.
Last November 26, one of the users of this beta version posted a message explaining that his avatar had been touched in a non-consensual way and with sexual intent by another avatar.
In an interview with The Verge, Vivek Sharma, head of Horizon Worlds at Meta, described the incident as “really unfortunate”, and recalled that players have a tool, called “safe space”, which prevents other avatars from getting too close.
Meta has also included a button to report inappropriate behavior that sends a short video clip from the perspective of those involved to a company supervisor to consider whether any of the platform’s rules, which expressly prohibit such abuse, have been breached.