NurPhoto via Getty Images
METAVERSE – This is Facebook’s latest major project. Metaverse is a virtual world created by the American company Mark Zuckerberg, who recently changed its official name to “Meta”. A kind of parallel universe, which the general public should have access to thanks to virtual reality headsets that allow them to fully immerse themselves in new online spaces, to work there or involvement with other people.
But this future of the Internet could be bad for half the population. In any case, this is what Bloomberg Opinion journalist Parmy Olson feared in an article published Dec. 15. The columnist was previously able to test the first versions of Facebook’s Metaverse in two weeks, and his experience as a woman, she said, sometimes “not very comfortable”. “What does social virtual reality look like? Think of the games put together by crazy, old -school internet chat rooms: chaotic, experimental, and often dominated by men. There are trolls and naughty kids, ”he said.
I spent a few weeks interacting with strangers in the metaverse to see how Mark Zuckerberg’s vision would fit in with the future.
It’s fun, but it’s also easily creepy when other girls notice me. Social VR has some challenges ahead. https://t.co/OLJWbwUBq9
– Parmy Olson (@parmy) Dec. 15, 2021
A “place to crawl with kids” …
On Thursday, December 9, Meta opened the doors of its Horizon Worlds virtual reality social platform to anyone over the age of 18 in the United States or Canada. Before that, Parmy Olson was able to explore his predecessor, Horizon Venues, a place “filled with kids” according to him-and this while Facebook applications are in theory inaccessible to child under 13 years of age.
In his attempts to socialize with avatars of strangers in virtual reality, the reporter says he faces many “sorrows ” : mostly young and immature players who spend their time intentionally annoying, even harassing, other users. From the beginning of his adventure, an adult male avatar with the voice of a “boy under 10” is afraid to yell at him what the value of an obscene is. Another faked a relentless cough, giggling and saying, “Sorry! I have Covid”.
… with “more men than women”
During her virtual epic, she participated in “a concert, a church service, a conference and a fast-dating event”. Even if the promise of discovering people from all over the world is there (Israeli, Bulgarian, etc.), the reporter also says he has met very few women.
An observation he noticed on his arrival Horizon Venues, during the first dating experience. Her female avatar is then taken to a main hall, “a large room with a tree in the middle”, where she happens to be “the only woman of a dozen men”.
What he didn’t fail to tell them was by asking “there are more men than women here, aren’t there?”. The small group of male avatars surrounded him quietly to take pictures of him before he was singled out in the shots. An experience he described as “embarrassing”, in which he felt “somewhat like a specimen”.
This raises the question of managing this new medium based on virtual reality interactions that is richer and more immersive than behind the keyboard. “There seem to be very few steps to prevent bad behavior” the reporter lamented, even if there are devices that make it possible to block and mute the microphone of troubled users.
“My conclusion is that many of the challenges Zuckerberg faces on social media, such as banning children and preventing bullying, can also bother him in the metaverse,” Parmy Olson reports in his post.
Moderating these VR universes will be a huge challenge for Meta going forward. While thousands of moderators are working tirelessly on Facebook and Instagram to remove hate speech, misinformation, and other posts, moderating Metaverse user behavior promises to be more difficult.
In fact, in the virtual world it’s not enough to recognize messages, photos or videos and moderate content – something Facebook doesn’t have to do right around the world. But in the Metaverse, it is also necessary to analyze oral speech or the actions performed live, which can be more complicated to moderate.
Meta has already warned that “trained security specialists” can isolate and log any incident if necessary. But is this enough to avoid Metaverse interaction problems?
See also HuffPost: Meta: The Facebook metaverse is as concerned as its interest