Metaverse - an unexplored and promising Web3 innovation reaching beyond technological expectations. As with every other digital innovation, as bright as the idea behind it is, its usage is still dependent on human beings, which leads to harmful and risky content. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) in the UK has published a report according to which Metaverse is exploited by sexual predators to approach children. Police data support the findings of the report, which outlines eight cases of children in the UK being exposed to risk through virtual reality headsets.
In fact, the risks are not new in the field, as Channel 4's Dispatches reported last year on users discussing their attraction toward girls between the ages of nine and 12. Furthermore, the users' jokes revolved around racism and rape, as outlined. In the following days, The National Center on Sexual Exploitation reached out to Meta and requested a change in the company's policy in this aspect and new safety terms.
Much like real-life predators, metaverse predators use language specifically adapted to appeal to young victims to initiate sexualized conversations. As technology advances, their approaches change as well. However, non-profit organizations working to prevent child trafficking also increase their efforts. It is Selah Freedom, which is a pioneering organization striving to raise awareness of sex trafficking, that approaches new methods constantly to do this.
Their reports estimate that one in seven children between the ages of ten and 17 receive sexual solicitations or approaches online. In an effort to prevent this, the organization has developed a curriculum and training for educators and caregivers based on the K-12th grade curriculum. Selah Freedom has educated more than 27,000 adolescents and adults on the topic.
Likewise, as technology’s influence and development spread, so should awareness of the potential risks. Daily, millions of child pornographic images are uploaded to the internet. Metaverse is still an emerging technology with untapped potential, which hides potential risks and threats.