Tech

Woman claims she was gang-raped in the Metaverse

Nina Jane Patel, the vice president of research for a rival metaverse company has said she was virtually “gang raped” in the Metaverse and that it felt like real life.

According to her, the attack took place within 60 seconds of logging into “Horizon Venues”, a VR world owned by Meta (formerly Facebook).

Narrating her experience, Patel said: “3-4 male avatars, with male voices, essentially, but virtually gang raped my avatar and took photos—as I tried to get away they yelled—’don’t pretend you didn’t love it’ and ‘go rub yourself off to the photo’.”

She added that she was “not accustomed to be spoken to in such derogatory ways, maybe back in 1996, but certainly not in 2021.”

Horizon Worlds has a feature called “Safe Zone”, which allows users to activate a protective bubble where nobody can interact with them, touch them or talk to them.

Unfortunately, Patel said that she froze, and that it “happened so fast and before I could even think about putting the safety barrier in place.”

Virtual harassment of women is common in many online spaces, but the fact that the Metaverse is in VR adds a physicality to the issue, and having a virtual body in the metaverse can make things feel a lot more real.

Patel said that: “Virtual reality has essentially been designed so the mind and body can’t differentiate virtual/digital experiences from real.

“In some capacity, my physiological and psychological response was as though it happened in reality.”

Back in December, another beta tester of Horizon Worlds claimed her avatar was groped by a stranger.

She said: “Sexual harassment is no joke on the regular internet, but being in VR adds another layer that makes the event more intense.

“Not only was I groped last night, but there were other people there who supported this behaviour which made me feel isolated in the Plaza.”

A spokesperson for Meta said: “Horizon Venues should be safe, and we are committed to building it that way.

“We will continue to make improvements as we learn more about how people interact in these spaces, especially when it comes to helping people report things easily and reliably.”

 

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