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

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South Korea’s media regulator held a meeting with Meta Platforms CEO Andy O’Connell to explore ways to improve user safety in the virtual world. The move follows reports that minors in the metaverse continue to face sexual harassment, which has become a growing problem in the country recently.

South Korea uses Meta to improve user security in Metaverse

South Korea’s media regulator met with Andy O’Connell, VP of Product Policy & Strategy at Meta Platforms to discuss ways and means to improve security and user protection in the Metaverse. O’Connell led the discussion with Ahn Hyoung-hwan, Vice Chairman of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC).

According to local South Korean media, Ahn Hyoung-hwan has asked O’Connell and Facebook owner Meta to help the regulator better protect users in the Metaverse. In addition, the two also talked about algorithms that power digital platforms and their transparency as well as ways to stop the spread of illegal information.

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The decision to enlist Meta’s help comes after South Korea’s growing concerns about minors being subjected to sexual harassment in virtual worlds like the Metaverse. Last year, South Korean authorities reported that an adult blackmailed a minor into sending him revealing photos of himself in exchange for Metaverse game items.

Even more disturbingly, the police have also reported sex crimes within the metaverse itself. Last September, the South Korean Ministry of Equality and Family reported a case in which a 14-year-old girl was tricked into removing her Metaverse avatar’s clothes and ordered to engage in sexual acts with her avatar.

“Sexually harassing remarks or conversations are common. You can easily spot them when they’re waiting [metaverse] Playroom.”

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

Meta Adds Personal Boundary System To Horizon Worlds Amid Sexual Assault Allegations

In addition to South Korea, Meta itself has observed sexual harassment issues on its Metaverse platform Horizon Worlds. The reports have forced Meta to implement a personal border system that sets a 4-foot distance between the user’s avatar and others who aren’t in-game friends.

Horizon Worlds is a free virtual reality (VR) game developed by Meta for Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest 2 devices. In addition to the reports of sexual harassment, the Metaverse game has also been criticized for its unusual 47.5% fee it charges developers. 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 an unprecedented growth of immersive virtual worlds. Earlier this year, Fortune Business Insights (FBI) released a research report that predicts the metaverse will grow to $1.5 trillion by 2029.

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

About the author

Tim Fries is co-founder of The Tokenist. He holds a B.Sc. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Tim was a senior associate on the investment team of RW Baird’s US private equity practice and is also a co-founder of Protective Technologies Capital, an investment firm specializing in sensing, protection and control solutions.

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