Children face harmful content in the virtual universe

Applications belonging to the virtual universe platform (metaverse) can bring many toxic experiences that affect children if left unchecked.

BBC investigative reporter Jess Sherwoo played a 13-year-old girl to participate in VRChat and the results were shocking. VRChat is an online virtual platform that users can explore with 3D avatars through virtual reality (VR) enabled devices. Jess used Meta’s Oculus Quest headset to participate in this app.

Children face harmful content in the virtual universe

VRChat can be downloaded from the Oculus Quest app store without age verification checks, the only requirement is a Facebook account. Jess created a fake profile to set up the account and she was able to join even though her identity was not verified.

She was shocked when she accessed virtual reality rooms, where many avatars were nude, rooms decorated in neon pink, like red-light districts displaying sensitive toys and sounds. opened very wide.

There are even characters who simulate sex on the floor in large groups, using sensitive language. Jess was approached by many adult men, who asked her why she didn’t go to school and lured her into engaging in virtual reality sex acts.

In addition, VRChat also has pole dancing and strip clubs. Children can watch pole dancing and freely “mix up” with adults, which can lead to abusive behavior, or make threats of racism and rape.

An unnamed safety campaigner, who spent months investigating VRChat, said the characters on the app are so immersive that children actually have to make sexual moves.

Catherine Allen, who reports VR for the Institute of Engineering and Technology, says her team has done a lot of their experiences in VR, some very interesting and others disturbing. . She tells of an incident in an app owned by Meta, where she met a seven-year-old girl. A group of men surrounded the two and joked about rape. Allen had to step in between the men to protect the little girl.

Following a BBC investigation, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said improvements to online safety were urgent.

Andy Burrows, NSPCC’s head of online child safety policy, said the app was dangerous because it bypassed the necessary supervision. Children are exposed to completely inappropriate experiences, which is a very dangerous problem.

The VRChat side told the BBC that they are working hard to make the app a safe and user-friendly place for everyone, insisting malicious behavior has no place on the platform.

Meta says it has tools to allow users to report and block accounts that engage in negative behavior, the company is trying to study how people interact on the metaverse to improve and put in place safety policies. .

The organizations recommend that parents check what apps their kids are using on VR headsets and, if possible, try them out for themselves to see if they’re a good fit.

VR and the metaverse are yet to be specifically addressed in the UK’s upcoming Online Safety Bill, but Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has announced it will. The bill would place obligations on platforms and providers to protect children from harmful content.

Huong Dung(According to BBC)

What does the 'predecessor' platform of the metaverse born many years ago have?

What does the ‘predecessor’ platform of the metaverse born many years ago have?

The platform had more than 1 million users in 2007 and is considered the ‘predecessor’ of the metaverse.


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