3 Patent Pending Ways to Fight Sexual Harassment in the Metaverse


by @linket

Shortly after Facebook shifted focus to the Metaverse, it rebranded itself as Meta. Then came news about persistent sexual harassment reported by women who ventured into the Metaverse using female avatars. While some people suggested it was harmless (it’s all simulations right?), others said that even the current rough graphics sufficed to make the harassment real enough to women. Meta’s reply was the urgent deployment of a safety bubble around an avatar. This was transparent but impervious to breaching. The female avatar was now safe.

It was a good version 1.0, but 2 problems emerged. The first is that the Predator is not punished. He just wanders away to find other females to molest. And the original female victim will likely eventually want to lower her bubble so that she can shake hands with others nearby. Or dance with them. Or other harmless activities. But she is now vulnerable.

There are 3 alternatives.

First. Jill, the human owner, can have a guardian bodyguard.

This is a human, Bob. But he does not use an avatar that accompanies Jill’s avatar through VR. Instead, he co-inhabits her avatar. Jill shares the optical feed she gets from her avatar with Bob. They see the same things. Jill retains control of the avatar and moves it. Now suppose a Predator nears. Jill swaps places with Bob. He controls the avatar. She can only watch. He uses the avatar and his fighting skills to beat up the Predator. Control of the avatar then reverts to Jill.

This approach differs from the current uses of a virtual bodyguard. Here, the latter is an avatar that differs from Jill’s avatar. Typically, it is a hulking male figure that walks with her avatar. But this is just an unimaginative replay of real life, where you might see some celebrity walking with a big bodyguard.

Second. Maybe Jill does not want a guardian.

She walks her avatar by herself. A sketchy creep approaches. He could be a Predator. But he hasn’t done anything bad yet. Now she increases the strength and speed of her avatar. She might double its strength. And double the speed of its arms and legs. Without changing its appearance. This is not like the Marvel Hulk who visibly beefs up. Her avatar can now fight with a momentum 4 times greater. Overkill? If the creep does nothing aggressive, neither does she. But if he acts up, she can handle him.

The idea is that the mass and speed of her avatar can be dialed up. It takes advantage of virtual reality. These can just be adjustable parameters at her control. IRL, this does not work.

But what if earlier, before he did anything wrong, the Predator signed up with the site to have a similar ability to increase his mass and speed.

He pretends to be an innocent (male) avatar, who does not want to be molested. Then he uses his new mass and speed against the victim.  A remedy is for the site to charge him and her a few dollars each for the enhancements.

This requires him (and her) to use a credit or debit card. There is no anonymity here, typically. So he might have to pay $5  for the ability to enhance over, say, the next 30 days. This gives the site a modest revenue source in the name of protecting users. Now suppose he uses it against the victim. And say he manages to molest her. This time, she complains.

The site can review the recording. Because when he used the enhancement, it alerts the site and starts a recording. It can ascertain that the Predator is at fault. But now the site has legal standing to get his credit card account information and do other legal measures against him.

Third. The leitmotif.

The figure shows a female avatar in her underwear. You make a hyperlink from her bra to a punishment site. You make a hyperlink from her panties to the punishment site. You are the owner of the avatar. Or you might be a coder who works for a company that makes and sells underwear for avatars. Along with the polygon mesh that defines the underwear, you fill in an associated field that is a hyperlink. See Figure 1.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Then the avatar puts on her dress. She walks thru a VR site. A Predator approaches. He gropes her by touching her underwear. When he does this, it is the same as when we click a link in a webpage shown on our browser. For us, that loads the webpage pointed to by the link. In the Metaverse, the Predator is sent immediately to the punishment site.

This happens:

[a] The Predator is immediately removed from the victim.

[b] At the Punishment site, this is optional but recommended. The site shows audio and video to him. The audio can be fingernails on a blackboard. (Remember the scene in Jaws (1975)?) The video is a bad acid trip. This is the deterrence missing from the safety bubble.

[c] We hamper him from returning to the first site. He essentially tries to hit a Back button in his VR rig. But the punishment site’s IP address is on a blacklist held by the first site. Because in general, the typical reason why a user at a punishment address would want to come to the first site is that the user was justifiably sent to the punishment site. A technically proficient Predator can use a TOR network address as an address from which to come back to the first site. This takes time. TORs are notoriously slow. The delay gives time for the victim to move on. And to notify the first site. Which now has time to add other measures to prevent the Predator from returning. Or to accept his return and for the site to do on-site measures against him.

See Figure 2.

Figure 2
Figure 2

The third method is objective and automated.

The Predator only goes to the punishment site if he touches her underwear. And it is automated because there is no manual evaluation by a monitor person of whether the Predator did something wrong or not. The automated aspect is in the spirit of how Facebook rose to prominence.

If you have a Facebook account, you write the webpages and make or find the audio + video to accompany it. Facebook just holds the results and spends none of its personnel time to maintain your pages.

We anticipate a future when virtual underwear comes with a data field of a punishment site. Maybe several underwear firms can jointly make that site. Or a group of general purpose sites might jointly run such a site. It is to their collective benefit to enhance the safety of the Metaverse for users. And good publicity, naturally.

This can be generalised to external clothing having such a data field.

The third method is in the spirit of Web 1.0. I was there in the dot com years and I remember writing and tweaking the URLs of that time. It was so cool and powerful. For me, this method brings a wave of nostalgia. It evokes 1995 for me. Maybe for you also.

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