You’re walking down the street when someone jumps out of the shadows, knocks you down and steals your wallet. Or maybe you’re in a crowded bus and feel a stranger’s hand trying to force its way inside your clothing. What do you do? In the U.S., you’d call 911 to reach the police. But what if 911 were a different number in every town or even every neighborhood? What if in some places you could reach the police by cell phone, but in others it had to be a landline or a pay phone? What if the laws were different depending on which precinct you ventured into?
This is what it’s like to experience an assault in the metaverse, where the rules and the way they’re enforced vary platform by platform.
Online harassment is already pervasive and destructive, and society is still ill-equipped to deal with it more than 30 years after the introduction of the consumer internet. The rise of virtual reality and the metaverse add a new dimension to this problem—but also, importantly, a new opportunity to help solve it. At a bare minimum, citizens of the metaverse deserve an industrywide standard for reporting abuse and harassment.