S. Korea Enlists Meta’s Help Amid Reports of Virtual Sexual Harassment
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S. Korea Enlists Meta’s Help Amid Reports of Virtual Sexual Harassment

South Korean media regulators met with Meta Platforms' executive to discuss ways to improve user safety in the metaverse amid reports of sexual harassment in virtual worlds.
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South Korea’s media regulator held a meeting with Meta Platforms’ executive Andy O’Connell to explore ways to improve user safety in the virtual world. The move follows reports that minors continue to be exposed to sexual harassment in the metaverse, which has become increasingly a problem in the country recently.

South Korea Taps Meta to Improve User Safety in Metaverse

South Korean media regulation agency met with Andy O’Connell, VP of Product Policy & Strategy at Meta Platforms, to discuss ways and means to improve safety and user protection in the metaverse. O’Connell held the discussion with Ahn Hyoung-hwan, the vice chairman of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC).

According to local South Korean outlets, Ahn Hyoung-hwan asked O’Connell and Facebook owner Meta to help the regulator provide better protection to users in the metaverse. Further, the two of them also talked about algorithms powering digital platforms and their transparency, as well as the ways to stop the spread of illegal information.

The decision to seek Meta’s assistance comes after South Korea’s growing concerns over minors being exposed to sexual harassment in virtual worlds such as the metaverse. Last year, the South Korean authorities reported that an adult blackmailed a minor to send them revealing photos of themselves in exchange for metaverse game items.

Even more disturbing, the police have also reported sexual crimes within the metaverse itself. Last September, South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family reported a case where a 14-year-old girl has been lured into taking off her metaverse avatar’s clothes and ordered to perform sexual acts with her avatar.

“Sexually harassing remarks or conversations are very common. You can easily spot them waiting in the [metaverse] game room.”

– Jung Hee-jin, team manager at Tacteen Naeil, a sexual violence counseling center for young people.

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Meta Adds a Personal Boundary System to Horizon Worlds Amid Sexual Assault Allegations

In addition to South Korea, Meta itself has been witnessing sexual harassment issues in its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds. The reports have forced Meta to implement a personal boundary system that establishes a four-foot distance between the user’s avatar and others that are not in-game friends.

Horizon Worlds is a free virtual reality (VR) game Meta developed for Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest 2 devices. In addition to sexual harassment reports, the metaverse game has been also criticized for its abnormal fees of 47.5% it charges to creators. The tech giant launched digital collectibles on Instagram and Facebook last month, allowing users to share their NFTs between the two platforms.

The emergence of sexual assault issues in the metaverse comes amid unprecedented growth of immersive virtual worlds. Earlier this year, Fortune Business Insights (FBI) published a research report projecting the metaverse to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2029.

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Do you think other global regulators should also ramp up their efforts to improve user protection in the virtual worlds? Let us know in the comments below.

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