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  /  Latest News   /  Zuckerberg or Virtual Avatar: Who Should be Held Accountable for Metaverse Sexual Assaults?

Zuckerberg or Virtual Avatar: Who Should be Held Accountable for Metaverse Sexual Assaults?

There has been a consistent rise in Metaverse sexual assaults! Who should be ready to take the blame?

One reason why Metaverse is the talk of the digital town is because of its intimate entity with avatars. Avatar, which has a Sanskrit original meaning as reincarnation, now refers to a 3D figure icon representing the user’s identity in the virtual reality— virtual avatar. Metaverse can be accessed as a fully digital environment to be accessed through the virtual reality headsets and promotes the scheme in which the avatars literally run the show. However, several incidents now reveal the toxic side of the avatar-active Metaverse. Recently, there has been a rise in Metaverse sexual assault cases in Meta’s digital domain. The most disturbing incidents concern the sexual assaults of avatars by the other avatars. The moot question is, who is to be blamed for such incidents, Mark Zuckerberg or the virtual avatars themselves?

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Not surprisingly, in almost all the Metaverse sexual assault cases the victims are women and children. When such virtual reality crimes do not stop with a few incidents and continue to occur, the accountability issue comes to the fore. The “who” question becomes complicated when a number of accusing fingers are directed at the CEO of Meta himself, who is none other than Mark Zuckerberg instead of any particular virtual avatar.

In a recent incident, a lady researcher exploring the nature of user behavior in the virtual realm came to realize that her virtual avatar was raped in the Metaverse. She had been persuaded to disable a setting that was meant to maintain a ‘safe distance’ between her and others. The moment she did, the preparation for the rape of her avatar started and care was taken to celebrate it with the consumption of alcohol and to let others watch it in the digital world. If this was a case of individual rape, there are other kinds as well. The some of us Report which refers to this incident also mentions other harms occurring in the Metaverse: virtual groping, gang-rape, sexual, homophobic, and racist comments, and gun violence. But is it enough to point fingers at harmful virtual avatars? Shouldn’t Zuckerberg be more careful about these incidents?

The finger-pointing at Zuckerberg in this context is connected to the criticism, that not only Meta does not ensure adequate processes for reporting violations, but it also fails to take appropriate action against users who violate the platform’s guidelines through Metaverse sexual assault cases. The terrible impact of such crimes on children has also been a major issue that points to Zuckerberg’s failure to deal with such incidents to the extent he should have. Meta in its defense comes up with suggestions like not disabling the safety settings of virtual avatars while interacting with unknown people and so forth. But such solutions do not convince the critics regarding the newly advanced digital world.

Many point out that in his zeal to amass incredible profit through a business model which invariably rests on data manipulation Zuckerberg has not paid much attention to the probability of harm and the consequent abuse of human rights and the violation of the dignity of the users in Metaverse platforms. The critics also find a kind of tacit assumption on the part of Meta, that if in the physical world we have numerous instances of such harms and crimes the digital world will also not be free from it. Certainly, such logic does not add to the credibility of the Meta chief who often boasts of the ‘controlling’ power of technology.

While the regulatory mechanisms must be put in place to resist such incidents from happening, Zuckerberg, himself needs to adopt measures to stop such incidents. Otherwise, much to his discomfort he will continue to face the accountability issue for the digital world.