Is the metaverse a safe space for the queer community? Can it be? Miles Oliver says that companies play an important role in creating safe online spaces that are free from harassment.
The Metaverse is the next big thing in the social media realm. It’s expected to have a spectacular influence on how we conduct ourselves online and in the real world. However not all individuals have positive experiences in the metaverse. LGBTQIA+ individuals, particularly, experience a great deal of harm. Harrowing accounts of harassment have been reported by beta testers in these virtual spaces.
What is the Metaverse?
There is no set definition of the metaverse. The space represents different things to different people. However, it is essentially a rich, virtual world that carries some likeness to the real world. Individuals can perform a variety of actions including shopping and socialising – anything that humans can do in the non-virtual world. In most cases people interact with these virtual spaces by donning VR goggles, and ‘playing’ as digital avatars of themselves.
Metaverse Anti-Harassment policies
Technology is becoming increasingly entangled in young people’s lives – LGBTQIA+ or not. They are finding love online through teen dating apps and forming online friendships that turn into real-life ones. From sustainable shopping to self-education, the digital world can be a wonderful thing for young people. There is no doubt that the metaverse will play a critical role in young people’s lives, as it continues to develop. This is also true for LGBTQIA+ folx. The main concern is safety.
Unfortunately, Meta’s current policies aren’t as helpful to LGBTQIA+ individuals as they should be. Their community guidelines are rooted in promoting safety while still encouraging expression. This can be dangerous because how one expresses themself is subjective. Meta also expresses its commitment to blocking fake accounts, detecting phoney content, and implementing tools to prevent bullying. However, these things regularly find their way onto Meta’s current platforms. These include Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, and more — many of which contribute to the hate speech, harassment, intimidation, and violence experienced by the LGBTQIA+ community on the platform.
It’s hard to believe that the Metaverse won’t be the same.
The Road to Real Queer Safety in the Metaverse
One solution for ensuring the safety of LGBTQIA+ people in the Metaverse is to have more individuals in this community involved in building the Metaverse. The Metaverse does have the potential to be a welcoming space for the queer community. When there are more queer-identifying people involved in the development of the Metaverse, they can:
- Ensure the platform is made in a way that’s welcoming to LGBTQIA+ individuals;
- Provide continuous updates with the community in mind;
- Share their perspectives on online safety concerns for LGBTQIA+ people and suggestions for addressing them;
- Develop unique codes that embed the needs and wants of the queer community into the core functions of the Metaverse.
There is scope for the metaverse to be a safe and accepting platform for young LGBTQIA+ folx. However, at present these spaces are still evolving to take these needs into account. We must come together and fight for inclusivity in our spaces – url and irl. And queer people dont have to do all the heavy lifting. Companies have a big role to play in how they show support and help build virtual support spaces.
Photo by Barbara Zandoval on Unsplash