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  • Robert Farago

I Was ‘Gang Raped’ in the Metaverse

Or not

The full headline at I was ‘gang raped’ in the Metaverse — the attack may have been virtual but my trauma is very real.

Nina Patel’s account of avatar rape in META’s Horizon Worlds is suddenly getting a lot of media coverage. But was she the victim of unsolicited, unwanted virtual sexual abuse?

Ms. Patel claims that after donning her VR headset and signing-on, four male-voiced avatars immediately cornered her and…

…relentlessly harassed me and then proceeded to (what can only be described) as the sexual assault of my avatar.

Neither Ms. Patel or The Post fill-in the blank. Google isn’t very helpful on the simple question: can Horizon World avatars have simulated sex?

Even if Horizon World avatars can bump virtual uglies, Ms. Patel’s account is not as straightforward as she’s making it sound. This “official statement” – buried at the bottom of the article – raises a red flag.

A Meta representative said that the attack was a result of not turning on the “Personal Boundary” feature; when activated, it does not allow non-friends to come within four feet of your character. Patel, however, could not activate hers in time because she “froze.”

I’m not sure where The Post got that Meta declaration.

Horizon World’s Personal Boundary is the default setting. To experience virtual sexual contact (whatever that means), Ms. Patel had to access the safety tab and change the boundary.

Does removing the Personal Boundary constitute giving permission for undesirable virtual contact (in one form or another)?

An avatar can’t be forced to remain in an encounter. Can they? What about bullying? Seduction? Grooming? Brainwashing?

Interesting questions for another time. Meanwhile, I’m arching an eyebrow.

The Post ID’s Ms. Patel as a psychotherapist and a “start-up co-founder.” In fact, she’s a self-proclaimed “Award Winning Social Impact Technologist and Keynote Speaker.” Her website informs us that…

Her doctoral research dives deep into the physiological and psychological intricacies of the Metaverse, setting new standards for understanding the symbiosis between the digital realm and human emotions.

In short, Ms. Patel has an axe to grind.

She makes a living warning people about VR from a PC perspective, drumming-up business via sympathetic media coverage (e.g., Vogue, CNN, BBC, Elle Magazine, USA Today).

\In this anti-VR jihad she’s not alone. The far-left SumOfUs advocacy group’s report Metaverse: Another Cesspool of Toxic Content tells the tale. And how.

There’s another tale about VR rape that sounds exactly like Ms. Patel’s alleged assault. In fact, its sudden appearance explains why Ms. Patel’s two-year-old claim is getting fresh ink.

“The girl under the age of 16 is said to have been left distraught after her avatar – her digital character – was gang raped by the online strangers,” reports.

Yesterday the National Police Chiefs' Council's Child Protection and Abuse Investigation Lead, Ian Critchley, warned 'the metaverse creates a gateway for predators to commit horrific crimes against children'. Details of the extraordinary virtual reality case have been kept secret to protect the child involved, amid fears that, for several reasons, a prosecution will not be possible.

The Metaverse as a pedophile gateway? More than every other online game, forum and social media app? Who knew? Except Ms. Patel, of course.

As Apple Vision Pro prepares to make VR worth doing, the Metaverse rape stories raise an important question: can people be punished in the real world for their actions in the virtual world?

How and where do you draw the line? What if I murder an avatar you spent time and money creating? Or use a racist or homophobic slur? What court has jurisdiction?

VR’s a Brave New World alright. Occupied by the same adventurers, explorers, crusaders, creeps and opportunists as the “real world.”

The plot twist: AI Metaverse denizens who don’t exist in the real world. If they commit a crime whom do you prosecute?

There is only one sensible strategy for negotiating VR’s digital worlds: trust no one. A good lesson for our children.

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