Meta launches new safety features after woman was assaulted online

Meta launches new safety feature for its virtual world after a woman was sexually assaulted online less than a minute after logging on 

  • A woman was assaulted less than a minute after logging on to the Metaverse
  • Meta has announced it is installing a new ‘Personal Boundary’ feature
  • It will prevent avatars from coming within a set distance of each other

Meta has introduced new safety features for its virtual online world after The Mail on Sunday revealed how a woman had been sexually assaulted less than a minute after logging on to the ‘metaverse’.

Nina Jane Patel, a mother-of-four, told how her avatar – a computer-generated version of herself – was pursued by three male characters, who groped her and subjected her to a stream of sexual innuendo.

Now, Meta, the umbrella company formerly known as Facebook, has announced it has installed a new ‘Personal Boundary’ feature, which prevents avatars from coming within a set distance of each other. The intention is to avoid unwanted interactions.

Meta has introduced new safety features for its virtual online world after The Mail on Sunday revealed how a woman had been sexually assaulted less than a minute after logging on to the ‘metaverse’

A Meta spokesman said: ‘We believe Personal Boundary is a powerful example of how VR (virtual reality) has the potential to help people interact comfortably.

‘If someone tried to enter your Personal Boundary, the system will halt their forward movement as they reach the boundary.’

The feature was rolled out on Friday and is available in Meta’s Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues software.

The metaverse is an online world in which users’ avatars meet, interact and explore a fast-growing network of virtual locations.

While the technology is still in its infancy, the virtual reality universe has been hit by the real world problems of sexual harassment.

The metaverse is an online world in which users’ avatars meet, interact and explore a fast-growing network of virtual locations

Mrs Patel, 43, told The Mail on Sunday how she had entered the Horizons Venues metaverse ‘as an avatar who looked just like me – middle-aged, blonde and dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved top’.

She added: ‘Within 60 seconds, three male avatars who all had male voices – came towards me and touched me inappropriately.’

Users of Venues must be at least 18, but critics say it is easy for youngsters to lie about their age.

Nick Brett, of law firm Brett Wilson, said the online attack ‘possibly ought to be illegal but isn’t’. He suggested the Sexual Offences Act 2003 could be amended to prosecute people who hide behind avatars.  

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