• One woman said that “within 60 seconds of joining” Meta’s Horizon Worlds, she was “verbally and sexually harassed”
  • Meta stock is up 0.65% to $239.31 per share

Following reports of sexual assaults in Meta’s metaverse, the company Friday rolled out what it is calling a “personal boundary” tool.

The function prevents avatars from coming within a 4-foot distance from one another in the company’s Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues to “create more personal space” for users and to “make it easier to avoid unwanted interaction,” Horizon Worlds Vice President Vivek Sharma said.

“We are intentionally rolling out Personal Boundary as always on, by default, because we think this will help to set behavioral norms—and that’s important for a relatively new medium like VR,” Sharma said.

The rollout comes following reports of misconduct in the social media giant’s metaverse from a beta tester of Horizon Worlds last year.

Nina Jane Patel, vice president of Metaverse Research at Kabuni Ventures, said that as she tested the game, she was sexually abused by four male avatars, according to a December Medium post.

“Within 60 seconds of joining” Horizon Worlds, Patel said she was “verbally and sexually harassed” by avatars “with male voices [that], essentially, but virtually gang raped” her avatar.

“[It was] a horrible experience that happened so fast and before I could even think about putting the safety barrier in place,” she wrote, referring to the company’s “Safe Zone” feature, which allows users to block other users.

“Virtual reality has essentially been designed so the mind and body can’t differentiate virtual/digital experiences from real [ones],” Patel said. “In some capacity, my physiological and psychological response was as though it happened in reality.”

The company’s stock plunged more than 20% after hours following its fourth quarter earnings report Wednesday.

Get the day’s top crypto news and insights delivered to your inbox every evening. Subscribe to Blockworks’ free newsletter now.

  • Morgan Chittum is a New York-based reporter covering NFTs, the metaverse, play-to-earn gaming and other emerging Web3 tech for Blockworks. Previously she was a street reporter, covering crime at New York Daily News, and a media and journalism fellow at the Poynter Institute. Contact Morgan via email at [email protected]