The realisation of The Metaverse is a concerning new trend for Big Tech companies. However, as companies rush into creating the virtual world of dystopian sci-fi, Metaverse devs are neglecting to protect their users.
This has already been shown through frequent sexual harassment and virtual groping in Facebook's Metaverse. While moves have been made to remedy this, they've only resulted in social interaction being cut down. But that's not the worst part of Facebook's Metaverse.
Metaverse devs accused of not protecting children
Reported by the BBC, an NSPCC researcher posing as a 13-year-old girl — the minimum allowed age in Facebook's VR platform — experienced some troubling interactions. The children's protection charity claimed that the platform shows a “toxic combination of risks” to kids online.
The researcher explained that they witnessed “grooming, sexual material, racist insults and a rape threat” in Facebook's Metaverse. Additionally, the 13+ rated platform gave kids access to some troubling virtual worlds.
For example, the researcher managed to access the virtual equivalent of a strip club. In the room, “sex toys and condoms” decorated rooms and “avatars were simulating sex”. Despite posing as a 13-year-old, the researcher was still “avatars were simulating sex.”
Child protection agencies have already explained that Facebook's Metaverse is a platform that will be targeted by child predators. According to the BBC’s report, that’s already happening inside the virtual world.
No Moral Compass
Via The South Wales Argus, Children’s Commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza explained that Metaverse devs aren't doing enough to safeguard children. With Facebook's Metaverse being populated by young children — despite the 13+ age restriction —the lack of moderation has been seen as troublesome.
De Souza explained that “social media companies... need to do more”. The children's commissioner claimed that Metaverse devs “need a moral compass” if they're to create a virtual environment that’s actually safe for children.
The children’s commissioner explained that she’s meeting with tech companies to improve Metaverse safety. During the meetings, De Souza will argue for “age gates” to force “companies to only give age-appropriate material to children.”
“Are you telling me that Mark Zuckerberg, with all his fantastic engineers and ability to create this, can’t keep children safe?” De Souza said. “That’s my challenge to the social media companies and they should be stepping up now.”
Every social media platform suffers from endangering children, especially at launch. However, with Horizon Worlds coming from Facebook — the social media company — many expect better of the virtual world.
After all, Facebook has had almost two decades to learn how to moderate a social platform. However, the social media company seems to be unwilling to make its Metaverse fun and safe for everyone.