May 23, 2022

Horizon Worlds and Venues, the company formerly known as Facebook, launched a new “Personal Boundaries” feature last month following reports of women already groping and sexually abusing women in Meta’s new virtual space by creating a two-radius bubble. Virtual legs around each avatar. This prevented the avatars from approaching each other by about four feet. Today, Meta replaces this feature by giving users the option to turn off a setting or control when it’s enabled.

Meta said today that instead of enabling the default limit for the entire Horizon world, users can choose whether to enable this setting for all interactions. VR users can now turn off their personal four-foot range, which was the default before the feature was launched. There is still a small personal line to prevent unwanted conversations, according to the company, but we have to point out that this has not been enough in the past to deter attackers from faking rape in the virtual meta world.

Users can also turn on personal restrictions for non-friends only, which includes an additional security feature when you’re with people you don’t know, but when you’re virtually with people on your friends list. If so, leave it on. You can also keep the individual limit for all possibilities as before.

However, Meta says it’s changing the default setting to have a non-friends-only personal limit, which means the security feature is moved back a bit. Because Horizon Worlds is a new social network, people can make friends with other users they don’t know in real life after meeting in the virtual space. This means that the user’s friends list may not match the list of people the user explicitly trusts. So some caution is still advised here.

image credit: meta

Meta says that since the rollout of the Personal Borders feature in February, changes have been made based on community feedback. The company believes the new options will make it easier for people to take selfies with other avatars in the worlds of High-Five, Punch and Horizon.

In addition, Meta says that when two people first meet, personal boundaries become more strict by default. For example, if one person’s personal range is disabled and another person’s range is enabled for everyone, the platform will set the distance between two people to 1.2 meters. And it says that personal range is now around four feet by default for anyone participating in Live Events VR Experience Horizon locations.

In announcing the changes, Meta acknowledged that developing for virtual reality “could be one of the biggest challenges for the computer generation as we are no longer limited to fixed perspectives and traditional flat screen devices.”

But this statement only blames the previous failure to protect women in the VR space because the creation of the VR world is something new and therefore will involve some trial and error. But had Meta initially solicited the opinions of more female engineers or gamers, it’s hard to imagine this topic wouldn’t have come up. After all, virtual reality sexual assault is something that has happened over and over again, including in other VR games, VR pioneers like Second Life, and even in VR games for kids on Roblox. It’s unbelievable that the company didn’t consider built-in security measures when designing the new virtual environment. It also shows that Facebook’s tendency to focus on growth and scaling first, and user security second, is also carrying over to its new projects like Horizon Worlds.

The company says it will continue to iterate and improve as it learns more about how personal limitations affect the VR experience.

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