The number of people exploring the metaverse continues to grow. The pandemic accelerated this trend since it allowed physically isolated people to bridge social distance in the form of avatars.

However, whether it's in the real world or online, any platform allowing social interaction harbors the potential for negative behavior just as it does positive behavior. Harassment in online games has already been documented, but research on harassment in the metaverse has been scarce.

Report on "Harassment in the Metaverse"

A groundbreaking international report authored by Nem x Mila, a research team composed of Swiss cultural anthropologist and Vtuber researcher Ludmila Bredikhina (@BredikhinaLand) and the self-professed "world's first" independent Vtuber and HTC VIVE brand ambassador Virtual Girl Nem (@nemchan_nel) from Japan provides much-needed insights on "Harassment in the Metaverse."

In the comprehensive 62-page report based on 876 responses to a survey of social VR users worldwide, the researchers summarize the types, intensity, and frequency of harassment unique to VR, its impact on users' lives in both the physical world and the metaverse, as well as users' feelings on legislation and guidelines and requests to social VR platforms aimed at preventing harassment.

In addition, the report also includes a summary of changes in user trends in the metaverse over the past year since Nem x Mila published their report "Social VR Lifestyle Survey 2021."

Nem x Mila have made the report available here free of charge in the hopes that it will stimulate discussion leading to "a better Metaverse."

The report was made possible with support from several metaverse-related organizations, including NPO Virtual Rights, PANORA, Metacul-Frontier, and VNOS Corporation.

Sample of findings

Here is a sample of some of the interesting findings stated in the report:

Harassment Experiences

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  • Harassment in the metaverse exists and was experienced or witnessed by the majority of survey respondents (57.8% of users experienced, 69% witnessed - when using VRChat).
  • Sexual harassment is the most common type of harassment. (63% sexual language, 43% touching in a sexual manner, 69% being shown inappropriate avatars - when using VRChat)
  • Verbal harassment such as slurs and hate speech was more common than sexual harassment among North American respondents.
  • Some characteristics unique to the metaverse can be seen, such as biological men being more susceptible to harassment on account of using feminine avatars.
  • The immersive nature of VR makes harassment feel "real" to users.
  • The degree of harassment reported was mostly "mild" (1/3) or "moderate," but 7% was severe. Biological females felt harassment more strongly than biological males.
  • As for why they felt they were harassed, 51% cited playing as a feminine avatar. For biological females, 71.4% cited being female. Among North American respondents, 32% cited being a sexual minority.

Impact of harassment

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  • Almost half of respondents said that their experience with harassment in the metaverse had an impact in both the physical and virtual world.
  • More than half of respondents (52.6%) said that the experience changed their lifestyle in social VR.
  • 43% of repondents said they played less often and 18% said they played more in private worlds as a result.

Towards a better metaverse

  • As in the real world, it is of utmost importance to be considerate to each other and to think and act from the other party's perspective.
  • With respect to legislation and guidelines, many users had significant concerns about restrictions being placed on their freedom within the metaverse.
  • At the same time, many respondents also called on social VR platforms to implement more flexible safety controls, better guidelines, and better moderation.

  • Q & A Session

    Nem x Mila will conduct a Q & A session from the metaverse on November 26th 22:00 JST. You can view and participate on YouTube here.

    Nem x Mila

    To find out more about Nem x Mila and their latest activities, an English summary is provided here.

    By - Ben K.