The metaverse by definition is a virtual and immersive world, which feels as real as possible. It uses virtual reality, augmented and extended realities (VR, AR, and ER) to provide an immersive sensory experience. Such an experience may involve visual, tactile, and auditory senses, augmenting the perception of the metaverse being “real”.
While it has its benefits and advantages, an increasing number of women have thrown light on the darker side of the metaverse.
Virtual spaces can be dangerous and scary for users with female avatars. One of the first victims of sexual assault on the metaverse was Nine Jane Patel, a researcher, and psychotherapist.
She wrote that she was sexually harassed by 3 to 4 male avatars within 60 seconds of joining the metaverse. Many other women have similarly shared their experiences.
Is the metaverse unsafe for women and other vulnerable groups?
While online bullying and cyber-sexual assaults have been in news for quite some time now, the intensity or the seriousness of sexual assault on the metaverse has not been studied.
Such assaults may not be limited to women either. Children, men, and trans-identifying individuals may experience bullying and sexual assault on the metaverse, which feels all too real when compared with cyberbullying of yesteryears.
A Stanford study showed that children were unable to differentiate between virtual reality and actual reality, and went on to create false memories.
Psychologists point out that the heightened sensory experience that virtual worlds help create can have an undesirable aspect too. These experiences can potentially cause trauma and other psychological difficulties in the long term for women and other vulnerable groups.
What are the solutions to make the metaverse safer?
Some of the solutions that tech insiders have pointed out are more women coming forward to share their experiences, building safer metaverse platforms, making online avatars accountable for their behavior, and bringing in rules and regulations that penalize sexual crimes committed on the metaverse.
Others have noted that offenders should be quickly made accountable.
Creating safe spaces and reining in offenders quickly is crucial
The metaverse is growing exponentially, and more people have begun to enter it to play games, attend work meetings, and interact with each other.
Consequently, making it a safe place free from misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia is crucial to its success. In addition, there need to be laws and accountability strategies to rein in offenders as quickly as possible just as in the real world.