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Let’s make the metaverse safe for women

The first time I looked at the Metaverse was a very memorable experience. I went to one of the most popular social metaverse worlds, and the moment I loaded the area, I was fascinated by many things that sounded like a teenage boy.

Some people asked, “Would you like to marry me?” And others have called me all sorts of sexual insults and insults. Many of the boys’ avatars looked like young girls with too sexual anime style, wearing only underwear and bras. Surrounded by a 13-year-old boy who is overtly using sexual avatars, screaming obscene words, can be quite uncomfortable. I tried to avoid them by leaving the area, but within minutes I had one of the harassers find me and point his aides in junior high school towards me. After this cycle was repeated several times, I lost my composure and logged off thinking, “How can a woman enjoy this?” At that time, I learned what harassment in the Metaverse looks like.

Metaverse is an immersive online world network accessed via virtual reality or augmented reality headsets. It’s a real-world, parallel digital life where users can interact with markets, educational institutions, virtual office spaces, social networks, and gaming experiences while wearing personalized avatars. Many technology and investment leaders believe that the Metaverse will soon become a major part of our economy, providing an endless source of entertainment and employment opportunities. Forbes Recently, he wrote, “Metaverse will be a trillion dollar industry.” However, these newly created centers of entertainment and work are not always safe for women.

My experience was not unique. The story of a woman being harassed by the Metaverse is commonplace.

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Not surprisingly, many rational people are simply not interested in such stories. “Of course, people cheat on the Internet,” they say. “That’s why you shouldn’t meet people on the internet!”

That view overlooks how Americans, especially young Americans, have become dependent on the Internet for dating. According to eHarmony, “20% of current devoted relationships started online” and “40% of Americans use online dating.” According to The Knot, since 2019, the best way for Americans to establish new and lasting relationships is to date online before meeting friends, school, or work. Suggesting that people should give up on the best way to date is like telling people to give up driving because the road is unsafe, rather than agreeing to repair the road.

The story of harassment in the Metaverse is, in fact, a story about how many Metaverse platform developers couldn’t make it safe for women and the consequences of these failures. The solution is to fix these platforms rather than discourage women from entering the Metaverse.

I’m a founding partner of a company called FireFlare Games, putting women’s safety at the forefront and creating virtual reality for dating in the Metaverse. We call it Planet Theta. As a founder, I have endeavored to ensure that the team has the insights they need to develop and incorporate cutting-edge technology to protect everyone. My hope is that Planet Theta will be the model for other Metaverse platforms.

The development of the Metaverse is an overwhelmingly male-dominated area. With the exception of some supporting artists, the industry is almost all men. The results are not surprising. Many Metaverse platforms do not seem to be aware of women’s concerns.

According to a survey by our team, there are very different concerns for men and women when it comes to using dating apps. The primary concern for men is to catch catfish — lying about the identity, personality, or appearance of the real person behind the avatar they are interacting with. What are the biggest concerns for women? safety. Women are afraid of being assaulted in the Metaverse or even worse in real life. So it’s no surprise that in male-dominated areas, app developers have come up with many creative solutions to combat cat phishing through features such as validated profiles and validated photos. When it comes to keeping women safe, most people leave it up to them to protect themselves.

Many women agree that meeting someone in person for the first time after connecting with someone on a dating app is scary and dangerous. My girlfriend and I have a rule that I would never go on my first date from a dating app without the help of my friends. At least one of us agrees on check-in time using a secret code that both parties know to let us know that everything is ok. Women have come up with novel ways to protect themselves and each other, but the dating industry itself is inadequate.

We want everyone to experience the Metaverse equally. The Metaverse is coming and will be bigger than the internet. It won’t stop. But there is a chance to make it safer.

Aurora Townsend is Chief Marketing Officer of Planet Theta. She wrote this column for the Dallas Morning News.

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