The UK Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has denounced some metaverse apps have an “inherently dangerous design”.
Following a BBC investigation, during which a journalist pretending to be a 13-year-old girl and was the victim of sexual harassment and threats of rape.
The journalist used an app through which he entered virtual reality spaces and saw avatars that simulated relationshipsin a space where she was shown condoms and sex toys and where adult men approached her.
The Metaverse is the name of the games and experiences accessed with audio-visual virtual reality headsetsand that Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, defined it as the future of the Internet.
His company has invested millions of dollars in the development of Oculus Quest, its own virtual reality headset, renamed Meta Quest, which today reaches 75% of the market.
With this helmet, the BBC journalist entered the VRChat application, in which 3D avatars can be used. The woman created a fake profile to get her account and thus verified that teenagers rubbed shoulders with adults in places as disparate as a restaurant and strip clubs.
Prior to the release of the report, the NSPCC called for improvements to online security. “These are children exposed to really harmful and totally inappropriate experiences”pointed out Andy Burrows, a referent of the group.
“This is a product whose design is inherently unsafe, due to carelessness and negligence. products without any security”he added.
For its part, Meta (as Zuckrberg’s company is now called), replied that it has tools allowing users to block other participants and that it is working to improve them, “by learning how people interact in these spaces”.