A woman claimed she was “virtually gang-raped” seconds after entering the new virtual reality in Facebook’s metaverse.
“Within 60 seconds of joining — I was verbally and sexually harassed — 3–4 male avatars, with male voices, essentially, but virtually gang-raped my avatar and took photos.” Nina Jane Patel, a 43-year-old London mother, wrote in a December Medium Post that has only recently begun to gain traction online. “As I tried to get away they yelled – ‘don’t pretend you didn’t love it’ and ‘go rub yourself off to the photo.'”
Patel added, “It was surreal. It was a nightmare.”
Sexual violence is already an issue in the metaverse, according to reports. Verge reported in early December that a beta tester claimed that a stranger had groped her avatar. “Sexual harassment is no joke on the regular internet, but being in VR adds another layer that makes the event more intense,” the tester wrote. “Not only was I groped last night, but there were other people there who supported this behavior which made me feel isolated in the Plaza.”
According to Vivek Sharma, Meta’s vice president of Horizon, the incidence was “absolutely unfortunate,” and the beta tester failed to employ a safety mechanism that prevents others from engaging with you. “Good feedback,” Sharma said of the tester’s report.
Mark Zuckerberg stated last year that Facebook’s parent company will be renamed “Meta” and would focus on the “future digital universe.” People’s avatars in that environment will theoretically be able to do anything they can in the actual world, from socializing with friends to attending concerts to everyday things like grocery shopping.
Because the whole incident happened so rapidly, Patel, a vice president of research for another metaverse company, stated in her Medium post that she didn’t apply any safety mechanisms. After she published her incident, she claimed she was met with several nasty comments, including one who advised her, “Don’t choose a female avatar, it’s a simple fix,” and ridiculed her as a “pathetic cry for attention.”