DAA Daily

Meta to discuss children’s VR safety 

By Aryaman Bhatia, Science and Tech Editor, The Pawprint

The goal of the code is to ensure that online services that children are likely to access are appropriate for their use. In a popular third-party VR chat app, a campaign group recently discovered evidence of harassment of under-18s.

Meta claims to be working on integrating the code with the ICO.

“We’re committed to meeting our obligations under the code and providing age-appropriate experiences for young people,” the company stated.

Oculus requires users to be at least 13 years old, and the company’s guidelines state that “adults should monitor how their children… use Oculus devices.”. The architect of the children’s code, crossbench peer Beeban Kidron, expressed concern that the checks were insufficient.

“Kids using VR headsets like Oculus can access chat rooms and other features known to carry risk,” she told the Guardian.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate recently raised the issue of child safety in virtual reality (CCDH). VRChat, a popular third-party app, was investigated by the campaign group.

The app is compatible with a variety of platforms, including Oculus, where it can be downloaded from the VR headset’s app store.

Users of the VRChat app can create virtual environments, or “worlds,” in which they can interact with others.

Researchers visited one user-built environment “themed as a sex club that nonetheless states it is suitable for children aged 13+ and up,” according to the report.

VRChat has been contacted by the BBC for comment.

Harassment is prohibited, as is “pornography and nudity,” as well as “hate speech, including language, symbols, and actions,” according to VRChat’s community guidelines.

“We’re working to implement the standards within the Age Appropriate Design Code (children’s code), in consultation with the ICO,” Meta said in a statement.

“This is a long-term effort on our part that considers evolving technologies, guidance, and understanding of the digital environment, as well as how young people interact with it.”

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