In a shocking revelation, a researcher for nonprofit advocacy group SumOfUs has announced that she was the victim of sexual assault in Meta’s VR Horizon Worlds. In the damning report, the researcher describes some horrendous moments on the platform. This includes the rape of her avatar, lewd sexual comments, homophobia and much more.
Sexual assault claims on Horizon Worlds are not a surprise to anyone.
This isn’t the first such incident to occur on the platform. Since it went live in December, there have been several high-profile sexual assault reports on Horizon Worlds.
The researcher began by putting on her Oculus virtual-reality headset and selecting a female avatar. Next, after an invite to a private party, other users told her to disable specific settings on her profile. Notably, the platform has a four feet safety feature as default. The safety feature aims to stop people from getting too close to others without permission.
However, when disabled, there is nothing in place to stop others from touching you and, in this case, doing terrible things. The report by SumOfUs has a video of the time leading up to the incident. They haven’t shared the video of the sexual assault of Horizon Worlds for apparent reasons but have described the event.
The report states that the researcher “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 — all while another user in the room watched and passed around a vodka bottle.”
Significantly, it is essential to note that this happened within one hour of the researcher joining Horizon Worlds.
The Horizon Worlds safety features aim to eliminate the possibility of sexual assault
According to a spokesperson at Meta, the personal boundary safety feature makes this kind of scenario impossible.
“In Horizon Worlds, Personal Boundary is default on at almost 4ft for non-friends to make it easier to avoid unwanted interactions. We don’t recommend turning off the safety feature with people you do not know.”, they said.
However, it takes seconds to disable the feature. Clearly, the issue is also the fact that there are people on the Horizon Worlds platform who are actively seeking to sexually assault people. Undoubtedly, the root of the problem is much larger than a security feature.
Women in Web3
Meta will need to consider making its platform more diverse and welcoming for women. Women deserve to feel safe in every space, including virtual reality. Also, they must have a system in place to actively stop and remove people who behave in such a horrible, vile manner.
Over the last year, we have seen a massive rise in the number of women joining Web3 and also creating awesome NFT projects. That must continue. Stories like this will, of course, discourage users from joining. However, it is up to the collective force of the Web3 community to change the space and create a welcoming and equal place.