Issues around Safety

"Disturbing reports of sexual assaults in the metaverse: ‘It’s a free show’"

Media type: News article

Author: Adriana Diaz (New York Post)

Summary: The article highlights how virtual environments, which offer a sense of anonymity and detachment from reality, have become spaces where individuals engage in inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment and assault. It discusses specific cases of victims who have encountered such incidents and the challenges they face in seeking justice or protection. It also delves into the lack of regulations and safeguards in virtual spaces, and the need for platforms and communities to address and prevent such misconduct.

Key takeaways:

  • Though technology has become an integral part of our lives, our brains are still not trained to distinguish between real and virtual stimuli. Therefore we experience the same emotions on an online space as an offline space (e.g. the same feeling of rejection is experienced when we are not validated by an online peer group as compared to an offline peer group).

  • Therefore, a woman gang-raped in the Metaverse would result in the experience feeling very real - as confirmed by the victim in the news article too: "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,’ ”

  • No actions are taken by governing body (brand-owned spaces, Meta, Apple). There were no consequences for the attackers. In fact, Meta dismissed the issue saying that the safety feature should not have been turned off which was actually a conflict in their messaging since they promote new people socializing through their mission statement.

  • 83% of MV users are under age 18, so not having a governing ethical body can lead to hypersexualiation of avatars, which when embodied by adolescents results in them imbibing their avatar traits and restrictions

Citation: Diaz, A. (2022, May 27). Disturbing reports of sexual assaults in the metaverse: ‘It’s a free show’. New York Post. Retrieved June 6, 2023, from

"Child Grooming and the Metaverse – Issues and Solutions"

Media type: Blog article

Author: Sameer Hinduja (Cyberbullying Research Center)

Summary: The article discusses concerns about child sexual exploitation and grooming in the metaverse, particularly among younger populations. It emphasizes the need for proactive and reactive measures to address these issues. The article suggests implementing reporting mechanisms, age-gating, user verification, content moderation, and clear guidelines. It also highlights the importance of user education, in-app safety features, and third-party blocklists. The safety and protection of young users in the metaverse are crucial considerations.

Key takeaways:

  • throughThe Metaverse is especially alluring to teenagers and adolescents because psychologically, they are at that stage of growth where they want to explore impulsiveness and risk-taking and be validated by a peer network outside of their families. At this stage, teenagers typically want to try on different "adult versions" of themselves to see which role they identify with the most in a social ecosystem. The most important part of this learning stage is feedback, where the amount of impulsiveness or "Id" behaviors they would wish to finally inculcate into their personality is also highly dependent on the feedback from the society. The intrinsic structure of the Metaverse allows teens to explore their impulses by hiding behind an avatar without having to bear shame, guilt, or regret for doing something wrong or embarrassing in a social setting. Since there is no governing body that can give feedback on their 'id' behaviors, it is natural for people to experience an increased amount of openness, higher risk-taking, and lesser fear of judgment in the Metaverse. This can lead to people assuming new roles of lesser ages (like adults assuming the roles of teens) through online grooming so that they can explore their impulsive side and attribute it to the socially accepted stereotype that it is 'normal' for teens to behave that way.

  • Not only is the intrinsic structure of the Metaverse to be blamed for this but also individual factors in the microsystem of the user, that leads to online grooming. For e.g., those who suffer from emotional distress or mental health problems, low self-esteem, poor parental relationships, and weak family cohesion are seen to have a higher predisposition to attempt online grooming or catfishing.

  • "Meta recently released new supervision tools in June 2022 so that parents and guardians can better control what their teen downloads, plays or experiences via the Quest headset, view their teen’s list of Friends, and monitor headset screentime use".

    • This means that organizations like Meta literally have data stored about which family has children, and of an age where the parents are able to use parental controls and have enough information on their friends to create a buzz about new products in the child's peer network and record what the child has been doing through the Quest headset and the time spent. For the end-user (which is the child), giving away that information to an authority figure that can uphold them for the consequences of their virtual actions is a breach of trust because they were marketed the Metaverse as an exploratory space without consequence. This is also metaphorical of what happens in the industry, where brands like Meta and Microsoft are marketing the Metaverse as a place of no consequence and then selling the data for marketing more products based on the consumers' virtual behavior, which literally is a consequence.

Citation: Hinduja, S. (n.d.). Child grooming and the Metaverse – Issues and solutions. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved June 12, 2023, from

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