A researcher from the nonprofit advocacy group SumOfUs recently claimed that her avatar was raped upon entering the Metaverse’s virtual reality platform Horizon World.
The female researcher was using the social media app to conduct a study on users’ behavior when the assault occurred, Business Insider noted.
According to SumOfUs’ new report “Metaverse: another cesspool of toxic content”, which was published on Tuesday, users invited the researcher to a private party on Horizon World.
The Meta assailants then asked the woman to disable a feature that allows users to set personal boundaries between other people using the virtual space.
A video of the incident recorded from the female researcher’s perspective captured a male avatar standing very close to her while another male avatar stood by filming.
The two male users passed a bottle of what appeared to be alcohol between each other as the female user struggled to get out of the party.
Even though the startling incident happened virtually, the researcher said the assault made her feel “disoriented” in the report. She noted that her controller vibrated when the male avatar touched her, which caused her to feel a physical sensation of what she was experiencing online.
“One part of my brain was like WTF is happening, the other part was like this isn’t a real body, and another part was like, this is important research,” she wrote in the report.
The researcher claimed that she also witnessed people using homophobic slurs and gun violence during her time on the platform.
This isn’t the first time researchers have reported disturbing occurrences in the Metaverse.
In February, a psychotherapist claimed that she was “virtually gang raped” on the platform “citing that the technological advancement of the simulation made it feel like it had happened in real life.”
The researcher said she was “shocked” when three or four avatars began assaulting her, The Star noted.
In a statement, SumOfUs director Vicky Wyatt urged Meta’s parent company Facebook to address the issue, arguing that the virtual incidents could potentially lead to “real world” complications for users.
“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,” she said, according to The Star.
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