Friday03 February 2023

Research shows that Meta is not Ready for the Metaverse.

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Last year a group call Centre for Countering Digital Hate reviewed interactions in the Metaverse. The results of their checkup were not encouraging as they encountered 100 potential violations of Meta’s policies in the span of only 11.5 hours. The focus was on the VRChat app, one of the apps you can pickup from the Meta VR App store. They recorded interactions in the chat app as part of their study.

The recordings found multiple incidents of abuse (including sexual), racism, threats of violence and other behaviors (some aimed at minors) that just should not be happening on the platform. They also found that the system to report these incidents was not working as it should. They were only able to file a complaint on 51 of the 100 they observed. According to the researchers, Meta never responded or acknowledged them. Ignoring reports of abusive behavior is bed enough, but when it is clear the targets were minors it becomes unacceptable.

As we have mentioned before, Meta is intentionally targeting a younger audience with the Metaverse. As of right now the minimum age for entry is 13, this demographic is important to Meta. What they are not doing it actually protecting them, at least not at this stage. The Centre for Countering Digital Hate noted that they saw some people bragging about exposing minors to graphic pornography and seemed to be on the platform just to do so. Other items witnessed were threats of rape, aggressive demanding of contact information and these continued even when the target stated they were a minor.

Meta has made a few baby steps to prevent some of the more aggressive forms of abuse. They have recently enabled a safe zone around users in the Metaverse so that direct contact is not possible. However, this does nothing to stop bullying, stalking, racists comments, or people sending porn via the chat apps. These items are only going to get worse in this virtual space as more people jump in with both feet including kids that get around the limited age verification that Meta has.

Sexual stalking, abuse and bullying are not new on the internet. They have been there for a while and women have had to endure it without much recourse. It is a sad and unacceptable state. Now the Metaverse will make this even worse as it is a full digital experience. People targeted for this type of behavior will experience it in full detail and it can have a profound mental impact on them (even worse that “normal” cyber bullying). Meta needs to step up and fix the Metaverse before things get worse than they already are. They should also take some time to fix the same broken things on Facebook and Instagram while they are at it.

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