1 Jun 2022

Metaquette #VirtualSecurity Q5

Weekly QA with the Doyenne of the Metaverse....Pooky Amsterdam

There are more than a few ways to deal with the intolerables of the Metaverse and you know they're out there. It is no less upsetting nor shocking to be assaulted, especially in this new bright happy environment you decided to check out for fun. No one wants to be attacked anywhere, perhaps least of all at the arcade. 

Q: What do I do about someone who keeps doing and saying inappropriate things? 

If you are being disrespected in Instant Message, mute or ignore works best. But if some avatar is standing there trying to get under your skin or into your pants it's more problematic, and if they have friends, this is escalating fast. Various C-Suites should be focusing more on the safety of their users. To make the metaverse a protected place for people to go to, plus avoid terrible publicity at the least.  Fifty-Nine per cent of gamer women feel the need to hide their gender, that's a problem.  Free speech and anonymity clash repeatedly on the Internet, should we want the Metaverse to be a better version of reality or must it only be a reflection of it?

In many Metaverses there are ways to handle difficult avatars and becoming familiar with the User Interface is crucial. Find out where the report buttons are, how to derender someone and/or mute them, so if faced with a bully, you can literally disappear them. If they don't exist, do you care as much? You should always be able to immediately exit a region when you feel threatened, or even quit the game and log in somewhere else. That might feel like "letting them win," which is never satisfying, but it will work and protect you to some extent. And if you write the perp's name down you can file a complaint against them later. 

When these idiots come out of the woodwork on FB or twitter what do you do? Ignore. However, it's not quite the same thing because of the physical telepresence you feel - it is more of an assault, you are your avatar and your avatar is you. You know these trolls thrive on attention, but this kind of encounter can really sour a virtual environment, especially for a first timer. These are powerful experiences people have, and some can leave scars. With competition being what it is for people to join in, this first user experience is vital. A Metaverse is trying to entice them into freedom and glory. To do, own, see and have things which are not available in the physical world. It should not be a trial, users of their new world must feel secure.

For all the money pouring into virtual spaces, "on the grid" moderators are also needed. It would be great to have some kind of moderation and safety measures on board so harassment / verbal abuse can be dealt with swiftly. There are degrees of harassment, and people do have different levels of tolerance, but being racially slurred, sexually tormented and otherwise brutalized can't be allowed in the Metaverse. The best way to combat these hateful crimes would be with a live moderation team. Live help should be around, but it's expensive. That cost could be lessened with pay in coin of the realm and other perks like being an ingame god. This is an area where one might suggest AI policebots who'd review the chat that just transpired and if sordid, aggressive or rude enough, eject the offensive player and ban their ISP. But do we really want a NannyBot State? Get some Mods!!

Corporate accountability in launching these playgrounds does need various checks set up to prevent harassment, but human willfulness can stop anything. A recent story highlights the failure of Metas' Horizon's border when a new "Meta-teer" was assaulted by two male avatars. There are tools which can be used to deflect "contact" but the user had been encouraged to turn it off. And they did. It is easy to say, do not disable Personal Boundary for the first avatar you meet, but Meta...if you are listening, everyone should have to keep their Personal Boundary on for at least 48 hours. This means its in place as a safety function when getting to know the new place. 

If you own land however, there are generally ways to set bans and barriers to allow you to determine who gets into your inner sanctum, but when you first spawn, it is usually in a place which is public, ie. not sold or rented to an individual user. Whatever checks are in place, the "Wild West" anything can happen feeling of the Metaverse promises new worlds of excitement, and it is a selling point.  It is also essential to realize that we are still all too human behind our 3.0 animated figures, and some of us are destructive.

For example, destruction and its cohorts mean there can be all kinds of "Griefing" including disruption of events, speakers, shows, raves, etc.  One famous example happened over 15 years ago during a CNET interview in Second Life of Anshe Chung's virtual offices was flooded by flying penises. Yes such is the power and awe of the Metaverse. Something those building them hand over fist should pay attention to by considering what has already happened in other older virtual worlds.

Having some kind of system where known harassers are listed might be effective, like an Avatars Most Unwanted list?  People just make new avatars. What about a repel button where you can target the person within the "too close zone" and make them go away? That would work, until then here is an excellent paper on what we need to consider for the multi user immersive experience.

These are new worlds, we need very good guidelines for them. In general I would venture to say that we need to address the growth of hate speech,  death threats, verbal and textural attacks which are an infringement on society at large. Meta societies are made up of people who deserve to feel and be safe in these new environments, from this new get-go.

If you have a question, send an email to info@pookymedia.com with Metaquette in the subject heading and it will be answered on the blog. Till next week...

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