Cyberbullying is Slowly Moving from the Internet to Metaverse
Metaverse has huge potential but it comes with risks like cyberbullying, privacy, harassment, safety, and more.
The metaverse is a hot topic in the world today. From tech giants like Meta and Microsoft to Nike and Tinder, everyone is placing their bricks for a future where interaction online takes place primarily in virtual environments. Metaverse has huge future potential but along with new worlds, new ideas, and new experiences, taking what Roblox, Second Life, and Minecraft offer to new heights there come risks like cyberbullying, privacy, harassment, safety, and more. This article features how cyberbullying is slowly entering the virtual world.
Many people are saying that the metaverse is capable of blurring the line between reality and virtual reality. In a persistent, all-encompassing digital world, the sensory experience is heightened, which in turn escalates the experience of harassment, assault, cyberbullying, and hate speech.
Numbers Speak: Online abuse in the metaverse
7 minutes: Researchers from the Center for Countering Hate found one incident of harassment and abuse on Facebook’s VR Chat every 7 minutes over a 12-hour period (Center for Countering Digital Hate)
4 feet: Meta this month introduced a default personal boundary that prevents avatars from coming within 4 feet of each other in Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues spaces (Ars Technica)
US$50 million: Meta said, it has invested US$50 million in global research to anticipate safety risks and develop its metaverse products responsibly (The New York Times)
49 percent: 49 percent of women surveyed reported experiencing at least one incident of sexual harassment while using VR products including Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality (Extended Mind)
80 percent: 80 percent of survey respondents, all of whom regularly use virtual reality, belief individually blocking harassers is the most effective tool to deal with them (Extended Mind)
Stranger Simulated Groping and Ejaculating
Last year in December, Chanelle Siggens strapped on an Oculus Quest virtual reality headset to play her favorite shooter game, Population One. Once she turned on the game, she maneuvered her avatar into a virtual lobby in the immersive digital world and waited for the action to begin.
But as she waited, another player’s avatar approached hers. The stranger then simulated groping and ejaculating onto her avatar, Ms. Siggens said in her statement. Shocked, she asked the player, whose avatar appeared male, to stop. But he didn’t.
Metaverse interactions as “uncomfortable”
Another incident took place with a female journalist who described her metaverse interactions as “uncomfortable” due to a lack of rules about etiquette in these spaces while another used the term “unnerving” when considering the unexpected and risky nature of certain rooms.
The metaverse is being designed by various companies with various mechanisms in place to prevent interpersonal victimization, but standards and rules must be in place – and faithfully applied – when individuals are inevitably targeted and harmed. To wit, any virtual environment needs to have a robust (and frequently updated) set of Community Guidelines to define behavioral expectations, as well as to declare the existence of disciplinary policies for conduct breaches.
On Meta, thousands of content moderators work around the clock to flag posts for hate speech, misinformation, and more, with the support of software that can read text. But moderating behavior in virtual reality is much harder, both computationally and manually. Instead of just scanning text, you have to process spoken language, visible gestures, how people are moving between one another, and more.
The flip side to this is contact theory, the notion that people are more tolerant when they meet in person and can make eye contact or hear someone’s voice. Is it possible people will just be nicer to each other in the metaverse?