The Metaverse is a social space that users can socialize in – a bit like Facebook, but in virtual reality.
In these online spaces, people using virtual reality headsets can play games, but they can also meet others for immersive social experiences. These virtual environments and scenarios can be realistic or fantastical, depending on your interests.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg believes the virtual world is the future. He renamed his company Meta and launched the Oculus Quest headset, now called Meta Quest.
That technology, which makes up 75 per cent of the market, was used by a BBC journalist to explore the VRChat app.
VRChat is not made by Meta but can be downloaded from Facebook’s Meta Quest headset app store. There is no age verification or identity check to download the app; all you need is a Facebook account.
The Metaverse is home to many innocent things like supermarkets and even a McDonald’s. But the Metaverse also has a seedy side, the BBC reports.
An undercover reporter posing as a 13-year-old was able to go into virtual strip clubs where she was able to watch pole-dancing and mix freely with adults, which led to grooming, harassment, and rape threats.
Following the investigation, Andy Burrows, Head of Online Child Safety at the NSPCC, was appalled at the potential for “children being exposed to entirely inappropriate, really incredibly harmful experiences.”
He continued: “This is a product that is dangerous by design, because of oversight and neglect. We are seeing products rolled out without any suggestion that safety has been considered.” Burrows said that changes needed to be made as a matter of urgency.
Meta responded saying it has no responsibility for the app because it did make it.
Jake Moore, a security advisor at ESET, said that while the Metaverse has enabled users to create new situations and locations in a fantasy realm, “unfortunately this has led to its creativity being abused by a number of users who will ultimately ruin it for younger audiences.”
“The metaverse is still very young and regulations are far from being ready to be able to police this new virtual world,” he explained.
The Children’s Commissioner for England called on tech firms to “get a moral compass.”
Yeah, right. Big Tech has absolutely no problem censoring political thought that they disagree with, and yet they freely let garbage like this flourish!
Facebook and other social media platforms are notorious for causing serious negative harm to children and their mental health, as well as facilitating illicit activity like human trafficking and online child exploitation, and getting away with it.
Why would we expect the Metaverse to be any different?