A 21-year-old researcher with corporate accountability campaign group SumOfUs claimed on Thursday that her avatar was sexually assaulted in Meta’s virtual reality platform Horizon Worlds.
In the footage, the woman’s avatar is seen in a virtual room in Horizon Worlds with two male avatars. One of the avatars is watching while the other appears very close to the woman. Both of the male avatars are seen making sexual comments.
SumOfUs director Vicky Wyatt said that while the attack did not take place in real life, “it still counts, it still has a real impact on users.”
The group claims that the researcher also witnessed homophobic slurs and virtual gun violence.
Wyatt said that Meta needs to act now to deal with issues.
“Rather than Facebook rushing headlong into building this metaverse, we’re saying look, you need to stop and look at all the harms that are happening on your platforms right now that you can’t even deal with. Let’s not repeat and replicate those in the metaverse. We need a better plan here on how to mitigate online harms in the metaverse.”
This is not the first time Meta’s Horizon Worlds has been subject to allegations of virtual harassment and sexual assault.
In February, a psychotherapist spoke out about her experience of being “virtually gang raped” in Facebook’s metaverse, citing that the technological advancement of the simulation made it feel like it had happened in real life.
The metaverse researcher said that she was left “shocked” after three or four avatars attacked her moments after she stepped into the virtual world.
Following the incident, Meta added more safety features to prevent similar attacks, such as “Personal Boundary,” which stops users from imposing on each other’s personal space and is activated by default.