Cyberbullying is not a new phenomenon and has existed since the genesis of the internet as we know it.
It lived during the initial message boards and then within chat rooms. It persisted more ferociously with the advent of social media.
Some fear cyberbullying may metastasize on the metaverse due to its very nature of enhanced sensory experience.
Recent developments in virtual and augmented realities (VR and AR) e that one can experience kisses and the sensation of touch.
As a result, the potential for cyberbullying to turn into something far worse than what we have imagined so far is relatively high.
The Numbers Do Not Lie Either
- The Center for Countering Hate found that every 7 minutes, there is an incidence of abuse or harassment on Facebook’s VR Chat.
- Meta anticipates cyberbullying to spill over on the metaverse and has invested $50 million to develop safer virtual products.
- 49% of female participants in a survey revealed that they experienced at least one incidence of sexual harassment while using VR-enabled products such as Oculus Rift.
- Although research may not support this, 80% of participants in a survey said blocking harassers is an effective tool to deal with abusers on the metaverse.
- In addition to the $50 million investment in R&D, Meta also announced a 4 feet distance between avatars to ensure personal boundary.
Sexual Harassment is Rising on the Metaverse
One of the victims revealed that while playing a shooter game using an Oculus Quest, a stranger proceeded to simulate groping and ejaculating on her avatar.
When she requested the player to stop doing whatever he was doing, he refused. Many journalists have revealed similar experiences of sexual harassment when using the metaverse.
Although innumerable moderators work around the clock to stop hate speech, harassment, and other such conduct, it is difficult for unsavory activities to be stopped on the metaverse when reality and virtual experiences are blurred. The risk is always real.
Thankfully, psychologists point out that people behave better in real life than when they hide behind avatars.
They imply that when the metaverse gets to the point of blurring reality with virtual experiences, people may be forced to behave well due to fear of repercussions.
In other words, metaverse may reduce incidences of cyberbullying and harassment.
What Could be Done to Reduce Cyberbullying and Harassment on the Metaverse?
Indeed, there are many things that metaverse companies can do.
To begin with, metaverse companies can create products that identify non-consensual forms of virtual physical interactions between users.
In addition, they can also enhance methods to identify perpetrators and bring them to justice.
Third, users can block and report individuals who hide behind avatars while engaging in cyberbullying and harassment.
Finally, there is hope as psychologists believe people are nicer to each other in real life than in the virtual world.
In other words, the more realistic the metaverse gets the lesser maybe people’s experience of cyberbullying and harassment.