BBefore entering the metaverse, I read a few articles about it and people don’t have the most nice things to say. But I want to see if that’s true, or if people are just trying to find the negative. I’m a big user of social media, so is that a 3D virtual space where you can interact with other people – where artists are doing concerts and fashion houses are performing? It’s exciting for me!
But within the first 10 minutes of wearing the VR headset and entering the chat room, I saw minor children imitating oral sex with each other. I am a victim of sexual harassment, racism and rape jokes. At one point, I heard someone say, “I like girls 9 to 12: that’s my thing.
I met a user who spat out the most obscene language I had ever heard in my life, to the point that we could no longer stream what he was saying. musulti ko severe racism – hate speech, listing the types of people he hates, types of people he wants to kill. It was very cruel. And it all happened in a room I accessed despite using a profile I listed as 13 years old.
It got to the point that I was really starting to worry about how badly we were going to make our documentary. I knew we needed balance, so I found myself desperately trying to find good things to keep. But bad things keep coming thick and very fast. I didn’t ask whatever of it, I just existed in that space.
I go to chat rooms and people flirt with me, really flirt with me. At one point, I was surrounded by seven users and forced me to remove my security shield so they could do things on my body. I tried to run away, but they forced me against a wall, trying to catch me, making sexual comments. This is almost the equivalent of a sexual assault.
I know it’s not true, but when you wear these headphones, you really feel like you’re there-you can hear their real voices, and wherever you move your head, the world travels with you. . It tricks your brain into thinking you have actually experienced it. You forget that this is not true. Very scary.
A bigger problem is the difficulty of reporting this type of behavior. You need names, identities, some kind of proof. But if you witness something that upsets you, your first thought shouldn’t be, “Let me tape this conversation so I can report it and they can take action.” The way they expect you to complain is unreasonable. I just asked myself: do I feel like I can protect myself in this environment? Could it be the average user? Can the kids? And for now: no, I don’t think they can.
With this profile I put at 13, I was able to access all sorts of things I shouldn’t have. I use an app that says it’s suitable for kids seven years old and up, but I keep coming across rooms where people are squirming, twerk, and pretending to have sex. Users over the age of 13 should not be able to access this room. Seven-year-olds should not be able to access this room. But as the case may be, they can.
The worst part is how numb. The bad way people use more violent, homophobic, racist, sexist language means that after my third or fourth dive into the metaverse, I became desensitized to it. You can see this happening to other people as well. There are rooms where the most racist conversations go on, and some people just relax, not paying attention. It was a space where he was normalized.
If people act like they are sexually attacking you, I know it’s not true. I understand – I can never feel them touching me. But these people are in their homes, physically committing this sexual assault – using their hands to grab you or push you against the wall.
It breaks down the wall between real and virtual nature. If they’re so cool and calm about sexually abusing people online, if it’s something they keep doing and avoid it, what keeps them from doing it?
When I reached out to the apps, they explained what trust and security are at heart in what they do. They claim to work hard to moderate their platforms (Meta introduces parental controls, for example) and create a welcoming environment. One further clarified that minor users are not allowed to create accounts.
There is no doubt that some metaverse apps are better at moderating content than I have tried. But the reality is that we need legal change. There is a future for online safety, and the creators of this technology need to be held more accountable. Many of these chat rooms are user-generated content, and at this time the responsibility rests with users to moderate the content. Given how toxic the environment is and how horrible the behavior you face, it seems impossible – like trying to clean up the ocean.
I don’t think it’s too much to question that if I enter the metaverse I won’t be racially abused. I don’t think it’s too much to ask you to do something about your product that is covered in an App Store star reviews, saying it’s heaven for pedophiles. And I don’t think it’s too much to question that it’s safe that people like me don’t have to make documentaries on how dangerous your products are.