Meta’s Horizon Worlds has already seen a report of sexual assault, in an incident which took place just one week before the virtual world itself officially launched.
An early tester of the virtual reality (VR) platform has said their avatar was groped by a stranger in the virtual world.
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has admitted the incident took place on 26 November, after the woman posted that her avatar had been assaulted on the Horizon Worlds beta testing Facebook group.
Shortly afterwards, Meta then opened access to the platform for users in the United States and Canada on 9 December, after more than a year in private test mode.
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“Sexual harassment is no joke on the regular internet, but being in VR adds another layer that makes the event more intense,” the tester posted. “Not only was I groped last night, but there were other people there who supported this behaviour which made me feel isolated.”
Vivek Sharma, Meta’s Vice President of Horizon, told The Verge that the incident was “absolutely unfortunate”.
He said that after Meta reviewed the incident and found that the beta tester did not use ‘Safe Zone’ – a the safety feature built into the Horizon Worlds platform, which stops other users from touching them, talking to them or interacting with them in any way
“We want everyone in Horizon Worlds to have a positive experience with safety tools that are easy to find – and it’s never a user’s fault if they don’t use all the features we offer,” Meta spokesperson Kristina Milian told The Daily Mail.
“We will continue to improve our UI and to better understand how people use our tools so that users are able to report things easily and reliably.
“Our goal is to make Horizon Worlds safe, and we are committed to doing that work.”
Horizon Worlds is an adults-only app, which allows users to enter a VR world where they can build their own worlds and mini-games. It is in line with CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse; a VR world where users can meet and interact with others in avatar form.
Meta hopes to eventually group Horizon Worlds, Horizon Venues (a virtual space for large events) and Horizon Workrooms together.