Nina Jane Patel, a researcher taking a tour of a new Metaverse app, claims her avatar was sexually assaulted virtually. It took less than 60 seconds for her to be verbally and sexually harassed in Horizon Worlds, a game developed for Oculus that Mark Zuckerberg masterminded she revealed. The alleged incident happened while Patel looked on from her Oculus headset and she called her virtual male assaulters “relentless.”
“A group of male avatars surrounded me and started to grope my avatar while taking selfies,” she recalls. “I tried to move away but they followed me, laughing and shouting. They were relentless.” Patel, a psychotherapist and metaverse researcher, swiftly took her headset off.
“As I moved away, they yelled: ‘Don’t pretend you didn’t love it; this is why you came here.’”
The 21-year-old woman works for SumOfUs –a non-profit advocacy group looking to hold Mark Zuckerberg accountable — as a researcher. SumOfUs included a clip of the event in its report this month focused on sexual violence, hate speech, and content moderation issues at Meta.
Abuse, Racism & Sex Assault Overwhelm Metaverse Games
Meta’s Horizon apps offer a range of virtual activities if you have a Facebook login and headset. The female researcher who had just entered the Horizon app curiously described the alleged encounter as “very disorienting” and “disturbing.” While sharing an essay about it on Medium she seemingly felt conflicted.
“It happened so fast I kind of disassociated. 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.”
Research conducted by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCD) in December found over 100 potential violations of Meta. In addition to sexual harassment and assault, abusive behavior highlighted in the report included racism, bullying, threats of violence, and “content mocking the 9/11 terror attacks”. The organization advises that the platform is not safe for…
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