Researcher claims her avatar was 'breached' in Facebook's metaverse

Researcher claims her avatar was ‘breached’ in Facebook’s metaverse

The organization SumOfUs reveals that one of its researchers was virtually assaulted as part of a visit to the metaverse of Meta, video in support.

A woman doing social relations studies in the metaverse says her avatar was “raped” there, less than an hour after she began her experiment. The attack occurred while she was browsing the virtual universe of Horizon Worlds, the metaverse of the company Meta (Facebook, Instagram).

His visits to the metaverse – a video game concept supposed to offer experiences similar to those of everyday life – were for the purpose of writing a report, published this May, as part of the non-profit organization SumOfUs, which presents itself as “preventing big companies from behaving irresponsibly”.

“Disoriented and Confused”

In the video, available online and which BFMTV has viewed, it is possible to see the events from the victim’s point of view. We see the avatar of a man holding what looks like a bottle of alcohol, then, on the right side, the avatar of another man stuck to her and making equivocal gestures. Another part of the video has not been made public, but has been described by the NGO.

The researcher “was taken to a private room at a party, where she was raped by a user telling her to turn around so he could do it from behind, while other users watched through a window – at the same time, a user also present in the room was watching and passing a bottle of vodka,” in the words of the report. The experience was described by the researcher as having left her “disoriented” and confused.

“One part of my brain was like ‘what the fuck?’, another part was thinking this wasn’t my real body, and another part was thinking ‘this is important for research’,” says the researcher in the report.

Virtual barriers have been put in place by Meta to protect users. But as soon as she arrived on the platform, the researcher was asked to deactivate these devices, which she says she did.

More and more attacks

This case of virtual sexual assault is far from being the first reported within the framework of the metaverses. In December 2021, a woman who tested the beta version of Horizon Worlds also indicated that her avatar had “been touched”: it was then the first reported case of aggression. Since then, as the SumOfUs report indicates, numerous cases have been reported, mainly by women.

In addition, some users claim to have witnessed or been victims of “racial hate speech” or “homophobic speech”. “Researchers also noted the metaverse’s propensity to host extremist-leaning content,” the report concludes. “Drugs”, “guns” and “harassment” are also among the contents mentioned there.

In fact, the concern also relates to the ease of access to these virtual structures, in particular for the youngest audiences. No age verification is done, other than a simple confirmation from the user that they are 13 or older. Last February, the platform reported having more than 300,000 users.

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