Daily Mail witnesses sexual assault in Mark Zuckerberg’s Horizon Worlds – as gang rapes, child grooming and sexual harassment flood the metaverse – Inergency

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Daily Mail witnesses sexual assault in Mark Zuckerberg’s Horizon Worlds – as gang rapes, child grooming and sexual harassment flood the metaverse – Inergency


Investigations into the metaverse has revealed the digital worlds are swirling with gang rapes, child grooming and graphic content.

DailyMail.com has witnessed such acts firsthand after spending time in Meta‘s Horizon Worlds, finding it is becoming a haven for people to carry out sexual assaults under the disguise of their avatar.

We were welcomed into the digital world by a male avatar approaching a female in a bustling city plaza, who then began making crude sex noises and hitting her with an umbrella.

The female avatar tried to escape, but the lewd grunting increased in volume – even as she shouted, ‘Stop it!’

These attacks are carried out by ordinary users, who ‘hide behind’ the anonymity of their avatars, and cases are rising, said Bernard Marr, technology expert and author of The Future Internet, speaking to Daily Mail.com.

DailyMail.com has witnessed such acts first hand after spending time in Meta 's Horizon Worlds, finding it is becoming a haven for people to carry out sexual assaults under the disguise of their avatar  (stock)

DailyMail.com has witnessed such acts first hand after spending time in Meta ‘s Horizon Worlds, finding it is becoming a haven for people to carry out sexual assaults under the disguise of their avatar  (stock)

Meta's Horizon Worlds has problems with harassment, according to the Center for Digital Hate (Center for Digital Hate)

Meta's Horizon Worlds has problems with harassment, according to the Center for Digital Hate (Center for Digital Hate)

Meta’s Horizon Worlds has problems with harassment, according to the Center for Digital Hate (Center for Digital Hate)

Marr said that the absence of laws to punish people for harassment and attacks leads people in the metaverse to commit acts they ‘mightn’t dare in real life.’

‘The alarming rise in virtual assaults in the metaverse can be attributed to the absence of specific laws governing these spaces,’ he told DailyMail.com.

‘Unlike the tangible world, the metaverse currently operates in a legal grey area, where traditional laws on physical interaction don’t necessarily apply or are difficult to enforce.

‘The lack of specific laws for the metaverse emboldens users to commit acts they mightn’t dare in real life, exploiting the space’s anonymity and immersive nature.’

During DailyMail.com’s investigation, we saw avatars racing around and jumping about as the female was being victimized by her male aggressor – not one avatar acknowledged the situation.

The incident did not happen in one of Horizon’s spaces dedicated to sex and drugs, but in a beginner’s world for people new to the game. 

Horizon Worlds is styled like a sunlit fantasy town, but the energy is like an internet chatroom: chaotic and impersonal.

Meta's Horizon Worlds has problems with harassment, according to the Center for Digital Hate (Center for Digital Hate)

Meta's Horizon Worlds has problems with harassment, according to the Center for Digital Hate (Center for Digital Hate)

Meta’s Horizon Worlds has problems with harassment, according to the Center for Digital Hate (Center for Digital Hate)

 

‘Condo’ rooms in Roblox see players having sex in videos sometimes shared on porn sites (Roblox/Reddit)

Attacks and harassment are widespread, with the Center for Digital Hate recently finding that adults harassing minors is ‘not uncommon’ in Mark Zuckerberg’s Horizon Worlds. 

The report noted that adult avatars have ejaculated on young girls in the metaverse and threatened to commit sexual acts on users under 15.

Researchers identified 100 potential violations of Meta’s policies for VR in 11 hours and 30 minutes of recordings of user behavior in the Horizon Worlds app. 

Imran Ahmed, Chief Executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said: ‘When Facebook launched the Metaverse for Oculus just in time for Christmas shopping, its CEO  pledged that privacy and safety is at the heart of Virtual Reality.

‘But our researchers discovered that, contrary to his promises, Metaverse is a haven for hate, pornography and child grooming.’ 

Last month, police investigated the case of a young British girl who was attacked by a gang of young men in virtual reality.

In other ‘metaverse’ platforms such as Roblox, which is used by millions of children, there have also been reported rapes.

In June 2018, Amber Petersen’s seven-year-old daughter was ‘violently gang-raped’ by two avatars who grabbed her and forced the avatar to engage in simulated sex acts.

SumOfUs, a non-profit organisation, produced a report into the problems of hate speech and sexual assault in Horizon Worlds in May 2022.

Meta's Horizon Worlds has problems with harassment, according to the Center for Digital Hate (Center for Digital Hate)

Meta's Horizon Worlds has problems with harassment, according to the Center for Digital Hate (Center for Digital Hate)

Meta’s Horizon Worlds has problems with harassment, according to the Center for Digital Hate (Center for Digital Hate)

The organization’s 21-year-old researcher was attacked within an hour of using the platform.

The unnamed researcher said: ‘It happened so fast I kind of disassociated. One part of my brain was like wtf is happening, the other part was like this isn’t a real body, and another part was like, this is important research.’

Spaces such as Horizon Worlds also have areas dedicated to sex and drugs – and minors are accessing these, the Center for Digital Hate said.

In Roblox, accessed adults create ‘condo’ rooms for sex games, withvideos of avatars having sex shared on porn sites. 

Roblox itself bans ‘condo’ games, and cracks down on them when they appear. 

A Meta spokesperson highlighted that the researcher did not have the Personal Boundary feature on – a safety tool that’s turned on by default and prevents non-friends from coming within four feet of your avatar.

Meta points out that there are numerous privacy tools built into the Horizon Worlds platform, including options to turn off the voices of other players.

A Meta spokesperson said, ”The kind of behavior described has no place on our platform, which is why for all Meta Horizon Worlds users we have an automatic protection called personal boundary, which keeps people you don’t know a few feet away from you.

‘We want everyone using our services to have a good experience and easily find the tools that can help prevent situations like these, and so we can investigate and take action.’

What it’s like to be attacked in the metaverse 

Psychotherapist and start-up co-founder Nina Patel

Psychotherapist and start-up co-founder Nina Patel

Four male avatars charged a metaverse expert and ‘virtually gang raped’ her avatar in Meta’s Horizon Worlds – and she says the trauma of such attacks can be ‘similar’ to real-world assaults.

Speaking to DailyMail.com, psychotherapist and start-up co-founder Nina Patel said that her attackers may have felt ‘disinhibited’ due to being in a virtual world.

She said, ‘My experience in the VR environment was distressing. Within a mere 60 seconds of joining, I found myself subjected to verbal and sexual harassment by several male avatars.

‘They relentlessly harassed me and then proceed to (what can only be described) as the sexual assault of my avatar. Their behavior was offensive and disturbing.’

Attackers in the metaverse feel a ‘disconnect’ between their actions and consequences, Marr says, but the psychological impact on victims can be ‘profound’.

‘The perpetrators of these virtual assaults are often regular users of the metaverse, hiding behind the anonymity and freedom that the digital space provides, said Marr.

This anonymity can lead to a disconnect between actions and consequences, allowing individuals to engage in behaviors that are socially unacceptable or criminal in the real world. 

‘The psychological impact on victims is profound, highlighting the need for accountability in these virtual realms.’

Marr also noted that lawmakers need to deal with the issue – as do metaverse platforms.

‘Addressing these issues in the metaverse is of paramount importance. As technology advances, virtual experiences will become more immersive and indistinguishable from reality,’ he continued. 

‘The psychological effects of virtual assaults, as seen in recent incidents, are real and damaging.

‘New laws must recognize virtual actions can cause real psychological harm. This challenges lawmakers to redefine assault in the context of increasingly tangible virtual experiences. 

‘Lawmakers face the complex task of drafting legislation that addresses physical assault in a non-physical space.

‘This requires a paradigm shift in legal thinking, recognizing that psychological harm in the virtual world can be as impactful as physical harm in the real world. 

‘Laws must evolve to consider the unique nature of virtual interactions, especially as technology like haptic suits makes these experiences more physically tangible. 

‘International cooperation and a multidisciplinary approach are crucial in crafting these new legal frameworks.’


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