This is a bit of not-so-happy topic but at the same time it is a very important one. How will it be possible in the metaverse to ensure that everyone feels safe there? We all have read, unfortunately lots of people have also first hand experience, about online harassment happening in the social, in gaming, in communities and basically everywhere. People get stalked, identity stolen, impersonated, deep-faked and so on.
This means that Metaverse companies and providers need to manage the digital space and also enable new, innovative, ways how people can feel safe when in the Metaverse. This is something that Microsoft and Meta, just to name two big ones, need to consider when developing the platform: design it safe. But it will be something that also users need to be aware about: what they can do to make their virtual presence more safe. Just like we all need to be aware about multi-factor authentication today: it is too often a user’s responsibility to activate but there also also services that require it to be set up. This former way is much better approach: safety in the Metaverse needs to be enforced on by default to cover most needs. In short: let’s not make same mistakes that have been done with the current internet.
AltSpace VR is already taking steps for safety
Microsoft’s current public Metaverse tool is AltSpace VR. It has already taken steps to ensure people’s safety with few things like
- AltspaceVR hosted social hubs including the Campfire, News and Entertainment Commons will be removed
- Existing Safety Bubble will now be turned on by default. This is important: Having Safety Bubble on by default ordinary user doesn’t have to be aware how to turn it on.
- New attendees joining Events will be automatically muted. This is as much a safety and avoiding unnecessary noise in the event function. You don’t accidentally say something aloud you have meant not to. You need to be aware of unmute to be able to speak.
Personally the unmute has been very effective. When using Microsoft Teams I have been customed to that but I have noticed that sometimes in AltSpace VR I assumed that I would be unmuted by default.. After frantically going through audio settings the solution was quite simple: unmute yourself. 😂
AltSpace VR is also taking things further. Since they require everyone to log in with Microsoft Account they will also enable integration with Microsoft Family Safety. This way parents can limit or approve access to AltSpace VR for minors. They are also improving content ratings for Events and increase moderation on the platform.
You can read about making AltSpace VR a Safer Space from their blog post.
Safety Bubble is something that can be a good start – it can cause lots of anxiety if people are running over you, especially when wearing a 3D headset. Ability to ignore and block people is definitely something that will be needed in public events and Metaverses. Not having to hear or receive messages from certain people is very minimum what to expect but I would also add the ability to block some people totally (you don’t see, hear or interact with them any way). Things like profanity filters should also be something you can turn on and they could be automatically on for minors. Perhaps a “Panic button” would also be good where you can remain in the event (for example enjoy the concert or main speaker) but you will be invisible to every attendee – and they might be invisible to you as well. This is “Appear Offline” or “Be invisible” mode. Modes like “Do not Disturb” or “Block all incoming communication from people in this space” can be very useful if you just want to have a peaceful moment or lots of crowd seem to cause you stress and anxiety. This list is a lot longer, but I hope that at least essential needs will be taken note of so everyone can enjoy Metaverse without the fear of being abused or harassed while identity is also protected.
On enterprise and business side moderation tools will be needed. Controlling mute / unmute so attendees don’t talk over the main presenter, ability to limit actions on or kick out misbehaving people and block re-enter, Do Not Disturb mode (you don’t receive messages or at least active notification of them while in the space). AltSpace VR already has some of these features, like muting attendees who are in the specific area where presentation is happening. Raise hand, more formal Q&A, limited actions to affect objects and things like that will be something that will emerge at some point I think. After all, we all want to enjoy the space and not having to think how we will cope with people who misbehave.