Young girl 'gang raped' by group of metaverse strangers

Occurred: 2023

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A young girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by a group of strangers on Meta's Horizon Worlds metaverse platform, leaving her traumatised and prompting a police investigation.

The virtual incident did not result in physical harm to the girl, who was reputedly under the age of 16 at the time of the incident and was wearing a headset and using an avatar, but caused 'psychological trauma' 'similar to that of someone who has been physically raped', said the Daily Mail, quoting a senior police source. Virtual reality experiences are designed to be completely immersive.

The incident is thought to be the first time in the UK that a virtual sexual offence has been investigated by police. But British authorities fear that it may prove impossible to prosecute the case under existing laws, which define sexual assault as non-consensual 'physical touching' in a sexual manner. Others questioned whether it constituted good use of police time and resources.

Horizon Worlds provides an automated 'personal boundary' for every user which is suppoded to keep strangers a safe distance away from users. It may have failed to work in this instance.

A child safety expert at the UK's National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) told Sky News that tech companies were rolling out products too quickly, without prioritising the safety of children.


Developer: Meta
Country: UK
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Provide virtual social experience
Technology: Virtual reality; Safety management system
Issue: Safety
Transparency: Governance