an “awkward” place for women, the user says for the first time

NurPhoto via Getty Images The Facebook logo displayed on a phone screen and the Horizon logo displayed on a laptop screen are seen in this illustrative photo taken in Krakow, Poland on October 20, 2021. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NurPhoto via Getty Images

METAVVERSE – This is Facebook’s latest big project. The Metaverse is a virtual world developed by the American company of Mark Zuckerberg, which recently changed its official name to “Meta”. A sort of parallel universe, which the general public should be able to access thanks to virtual reality headsets that will allow them to fully immerse themselves in new online spaces, to work there or to join other people there.

But this future of the Internet may turn out to be unwelcome to half of humanity. In any case, this is what Bloomberg Opinion reporter Parmy Olson fears in an article published on December 15. The columnist had previously been able to rehearse early versions of Facebook’s Metaverse for two weeks and what she experienced as a woman was, in her opinion, “very uncomfortable” at times. “What does social virtual reality look like? Imagine games combined with silly, old-fashioned Internet chat rooms – messy, experimental, and often male dominated. There are trolls and hateful children, ”she says.

A “place teeming with children” …

On Thursday, December 9, Meta opened the doors of its Horizon Worlds social virtual reality platform to anyone over the age of 18 in the United States or Canada. Before that, Parmy Olson was able to explore her forerunner, Horizon Venues, a place “teeming with children” in her opinion – and this while Facebook apps are theoretically not accessible to children under the age of 13. .

In her social interaction tests with avatars of strangers in virtual reality, the journalist claims to have confronted many “sorrowful ” : Often young and immature gamers spend their time deliberately annoying, even harassing, other users. At the beginning of his adventure, an adult male avatar with the voice of a “boy under 10” screamed at him frantically at what amounted to obscenity. Another feigned an incessant cough, giggling and saying, “Sorry! I have Covid “.

… with “more men than women”

During his virtual epic, he took part in “a concert, a church service, a conference and a speed dating event”. Although the promise to discover people from all over the world was there (Israeli, Bulgarian, etc.), the journalist also notes that she has only met very few women.

An observation that he noticed upon his arrival Places on the horizon, during a first dating experience. Her female avatar of hers is then transported to a main hall, “a vast room with a tree in the middle”, where she appears to be “the only woman among a dozen men”.

Which he did not fail to tell them by questioning “there are more men than women here, don’t you think?”. The small group of male avatars then silently surrounded her to photograph her before offering her the shots one by one. An experience that she describes as “embarrassing”, where she felt “a bit like a champion”.

This raises the question of overseeing this new medium based on virtual reality interactions that are much richer and more immersive than those behind a keyboard. “There seem to be few measures in place to prevent misbehavior,” the reporter regrets, although there are features that allow you to block and mute the microphone of problematic users.

Difficult moderation

“My conclusion was that many of the challenges Zuckerberg faced on social media, such as banning children and controlling bullying, could haunt him in the metaverse as well,” reports Parmy Olson in his post.

Moderating these VR universes will be a big challenge for Meta in the future. While thousands of moderators are working tirelessly on Facebook and Instagram to remove posts that incite hate, misinformation and others, moderating the behavior of Metaverse users will be much more difficult.

In the virtual world, in fact, it is not enough to identify messages, photos or videos and moderate problematic content, something that Facebook cannot already do correctly around the world. But in the Metaverse it will also be necessary to analyze oral language or live gestures, which can be even more complicated to moderate.

Meta already warns that its “trained security specialists” can isolate and log any incident if necessary. But will that be enough to avoid problematic interactions in the Metaverse?

See also on The HuffPost: Meta: Facebook’s metaverse worries as much as it cares

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