VRChat online virtual-reality universe

VRChat is an online virtual-reality universe that enables users to interact with others using avatars and worlds they can create.

Founded in 2015, VRChat is thought to be the most popular social virtual reality platform, and has been the most reviewed social app in Facebook’s VR Metaverse.

Operator: VRChat; Meta/Quest; Microsoft
Developer: VRChat
Country: UK; USA; Global
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Manage system safety
Technology: Safety management system; Virtual reality
Issue: Safety; Privacy; Security
Transparency: Governance; Black box

Risks and harms 🛑

VRChat has been accused of poor governance and transparency, leading to a spate of incidents involving sexual abuse, racism and other inappropriate and unethical activities.

Child grooming, rape, and racism

In December 2021, research by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) showed that VR Chat filled with abuse, harassment, racism, and pornographic content.

In February 2022, a BBC report detailed a reseacher's experience posing as a 13-year-old girl who witnessed child grooming, racist insults, avatars simulating having sex, and threats of rape in VRChat.

According to Andy Burrows, head of online child safety policy at the UK's NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), VRChat 'is a product that is dangerous by design, because of oversight and neglect.'

Private, invitation-only sex clubs

Despite a ban on explicit content on VRChat, Buzzfeed reported in February 2023 that people are easily skirting the rules by attending private, invitation-only orgies in virtual sex clubs and age-restricted Discord servers. 

According to Buzzfeed, an estimated 'several thousand' VRChat users engage in erotic role play (ERP), or VR sex, with participants spending hundreds of dollars on Bluetooth-enabled sex toys and tools that help 'make fornication-via-avatar an immersive and more physically pleasurable experience.'

Other examples of poor virtual world safety that have recently come to light include sex parties in Roblox Condos, and virtual groping in Meta's Horizon Worlds.

Research, advocacy 🧮

Page info
Type: System
Published: February 2022
Last updated: May 2024