New research documents sexual assault within hours of entering Meta’s virtual reality platform

May 23, 2022

The report from SumOfUs highlights the staggering amount of harms found on Meta’s Horizon Worlds – as investors gather to vote on metaverse human rights assessment 

San Francisco - A researcher was sexually harassed and assaulted (virtually), and witnessed gun violence and homophobic slurs within hours of entering Meta’s new virtual reality platform, Horizon Worlds. 

Within about an hour of being on the platform, the researcher, posing as a 21 year old woman of color, was led to a private room at a house party where she was sexually assaulted, while a second user watched. View the clip here.

The findings of the investigation conducted by corporate accountability group, SumOfUs, comes days before investors are due to vote on a shareholder resolution, co-filed by SumOfUs with Arjuna Capital, that demands Meta undertake a human right impact assessment of its metaverse plans. 

The research is further evidence that Meta’s light touch approach to moderation is allowing toxic behavior to already take root on its VR platforms, including sexual harassment and predatory behaviour towards female- appearing and female-sounding avatars.

Rewan Al-Hadad, SumOfUs campaign director  said: “As it stands now, the metaverse is not safe, and based on Meta’s stance on how it will moderate the platform, it will continue to spiral into a dark abyss. Our researcher went from donning an oculus headset for the first time, to being virtually raped in less than an hour. And this isn’t a one-off account. Mark Zuckerberg claims he wants to connect the world – but what he’s doing is exposing people to seriously harmful encounters in a desperate attempt to save his company.” 

Multiple researchers and users have reported similar experiences of sexual violence, hate speech and graphic content on Meta’s VR platforms, as well as on non-Meta apps that are able to be accessed through an Oculus headset. This is despite Meta promises to improve  safety measures (1) and implement community guidelines. (2)

Last week Nick Clegg wrote that Metaverse moderation would be different to the active policing of problematic content on the Facebook platform but offered little detail about how this would work in practice.

In addition, SumOfUs and other groups as part of the Make Mark Listen campaign are calling for better governance of the company through shareholder resolution 4 demanding an assessment of the Audit and Risk Oversight Committee’s capacities and performance in overseeing company risks to public safety and the public interest.

Notes to editors:

  1. Meta. Notice of Monitoring and Recording to Improve Safety in Horizon Worlds. 2022.

  1. Meta. Conduct in VR Policy. 2022.


Read SumOfUs Metaverse research report attached.