Nina Jane Patel: VR beta tester says she was 'virtually gang raped' in FB's metaverse
The beta tester who reported being “groped” in Facebook's metaverse in December last year has now described her terrifying experience on the VR platform. “Within 60 seconds of joining I was verbally and sexually harassed, 3-4 male avatars, with male voices, essentially, but virtually gang raped my avatar and took photos, as I tried to get away they yelled — ‘don’t pretend you didn’t love it’ and ‘go rub yourself off to the photo,’” wrote Nina Jane Patel, recounting the “nightmare” she went through on Horizon Worlds created by Facebook, now known as Meta.
“A horrible experience that happened so fast and before I could even think about putting the safety barrier in place, I froze,” the London-based mother wrote, referring to Meta’s Safe Zone feature, that allows users to place a block on interaction with fellow users.
Nina also shared about the comments she received on her Medium post which were “shocking” to say the least. From “don’t choose a female avatar, it’s a simple fix” to “a pathetic cry for attention” and “don’t be stupid, it wasn’t real”, Nina has heard it all.
She further explained that since the inception of VR, developers have been working hard towards creating a sense of immersion for the user through generating patterns of stimulation, including light photons for the eyes, acoustic input for the ears, and tactile or haptic simulators for touch. “Virtual reality has essentially been designed so the mind and body can’t differentiate virtual/digital experiences from real. In some capacity, my physiological and psychological response was as though it happened in reality,” wrote the 43-year-old, who is the Director of Wellness, Arts & Culture for Kabuni Ventures — an immersive technology company based in London UK.
The assault she endured has left her worried about metaverse’s level of safety for its users, specifically children. Patel is trying to amplify her voice to discuss her concerns revolving around the VR platform with her story on Medium and Kabuni, an educational metaverse with parental controls that she’s creating for children.
“The inevitable move into the Metaverse now causes further concerns if not properly regulated and controlled for this impressionable age group on the back of solid research, science, data and evidence-based methodologies,” Patel added. “This is the foundation upon which Kabuni has been established and is currently working with educators around the world to shape a safer Metaverse for children aged 8-16.”
Addressing these concerns, a Meta spokesperson revealed that the company is making “improvements” to ensure the safety of all. “We’re sorry to hear this happened. We want everyone in Horizon Venues to have a positive experience, easily find the safety,” said Meta spokesperson Joe Osborne.