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Meta Adds ‘Personal Boundary’ Zones in VR to Limit Harassing Behavior

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Meta Adds 'Personal Boundary' Zones in VR to Limit Harassing Behavior


It’s disappointing, but one thing that you can always be certain of with any socially-aligned technology is that some people are going to use it to harass and abuse others, in any way that they can.

Most recently, that’s come up in virtual reality, with various incidents of women being attacked in Meta’s evolving VR world, in exceedingly concerning ways.

Back in December, The Verge reported that a beta tester for Meta’s Horizon Worlds functionality, which is its social media replacement in VR, was groped by a stranger within the digital realm. Then earlier this month, a woman said that she had been virtually gang-raped” in the VR environment.

These are obviously major problems, especially as Meta looks to make a bigger shift towards VR as part of its metaverse development. Which is why today, again disappointingly, Meta has been forced to implement a new personal boundary for VR avatars in both Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues.

As explained by Meta:

“Personal Boundary prevents avatars from coming within a set distance of each other, creating more personal space for people and making it easier to avoid unwanted interactions. Personal Boundary will begin rolling out today everywhere inside of Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues, and will by default make it feel like there is an almost 4-foot distance between your avatar and others.”

This is why we can’t have nice things.

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Of course, functionally, that doesn’t change much in the current VR space, it’s only disappointing in the fact that we need such measures at all. But again, evidently, we do, and with Meta seeking to convert as many people as it can over to its new, more immersive connection spaces – especially with its main app now losing active users – it’s obviously felt the need to implement such protection measures immediately to avoid any further harm and negative reports.

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Because as Jeff Goldblum’s character notes in Jurassic Park: “nature finds a way”, which works in both a positive and negative sense. Social media platforms have provided more ways to stay connected with others than ever before, we’re now more able to find more like-minded people, learn more about other cultures, and explore individual niches and interests in ways that simply weren’t possible in times past.

But social media has also facilitated the formation of increasingly harmful groups, the concerted harassment of people with dissenting opinions, the spread of misinformation and disinformation at huge scale, and the objectification and violation of users for any reason that people may choose.

Users should not have to deal with these elements, we should, in theory, be able to utilize these technologies for good, which has been the underlying hope of social media CEOs and visionaries, who’ve often seemingly turned a blind eye to the flip-side of the coin. But the impact of such harms is significant, arguably more significant than the positives, on balance.

But there’s no going back now, social platforms are already embedded into how we interact, which means that the host providers simply have to work at improving their systems to cater for misuse, and counter it wherever they can.

It’s not possible to eliminate such behavior entirely. Again, this is human nature, and as Meta’s executives have repeatedly noted, its platforms are merely a reflection of society and broader societal trends. It’s not Meta’s fault that people have negative impulses and choose to project them via its apps.

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But then again, it also is – which is why Meta is doing all it can to address these issues.

VR opens up all new forms of harassment, and will provide a medium for many more incidents like this. And that’s before we get into the more questionable use cases for VR technology, and the impacts that they might have on people’s behavior.

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Surely putting users into a more immersive, virtual environment where they can harass and demean people, and commit fictional crimes, is not great for their mental approach to real life, and how they can act in public. Yet, that’s very likely where we’re headed, with Meta set to launch Grand Theft Auto in VR sometime this year.

GTA in VR

It does look like an interesting and engaging gaming experience. But the way that characters are treated in GTA is overly negative, and various studies have shown that playing violent video games in 2D, especially GTA, form can increase aggressive behaviors, and desensitize people to violence.

I can only imagine the same applies more directly to a fully immersive experience like this. Of course, GTA VR will be rated R, and will only, theoretically, be available to adults. Just like every other GTA game.

It’s a major concern – when you’re building an alternative world, with more stimulants and more inputs to immerse yourself into an entirely different environment, that also cranks up the risk factors, and could lead to much bigger mental and developmental impacts in different ways.

But again, tech CEOs seem blinded by the positives and the potential of what’s to come. This will replace real-world interactions, and create all new ways to interact, and to share unique experiences with your loved ones, reducing loneliness and enabling virtually anything that you can dream of.

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But not all dreams are filtered through a positive lens, and not all people will be aligned in the same approach.

Overlooking the negatives might help Meta make more money, but it will also lead to more real-world harm, in many ways.

Building in buffer zones for avatars is a disappointingly necessary development. But it’s likely only the start.



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Elon Musk’s Team Asks for More Data to Complete Assessment of Twitter Bots

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Elon Musk's Team Asks for More Data to Complete Assessment of Twitter Bots

Okay, let’s just check in on the latest with the Twitter/Elon Musk takeover saga, and where things are placed to close out the week.

According to the latest reports, Musk’s team recently asked Twitter for more tweet info, in order to help it make an accurate assessment of bot activity in the app. This comes after Musk questioned Twitter’s claim that bots and fake accounts make up only 5% of its active user base, and said that his Twitter takeover deal could not go ahead unless Twitter could produce more evidence to support this figure.

Which Twitter did, by providing Musk with access to its ‘full firehose’ of tweets over a given period, which it shared with Musk’s team back on June 8th. Musk’s group has now had that data for a couple of weeks, but this week, it said that this info is not enough to go on, and that it needs even more insight from Twitter to make its judgment.

And after initially resisting calls for more data access, Twitter has now reportedly relented and handed over more tweet data access to Musk’s team.

Which may or may not be a concern, depending on how you see it.

In its initial data dump, Twitter reportedly gave Musk’s team info on:

  • Total user tweets (within a given time period)
  • Data on which devices were used

As noted, Musk’s team says that this has not provided it with the insight that it needs to conduct an accurate analysis of potential bot activity, so Twitter has now provided Musk with more ‘real-time API data’.

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It’s not clear whether that means that Twitter has provided everything that its API systems can provide, but that could mean that Musk’s team can now access:

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  • Real-time info on tweet text and visual elements/attachments
  • Data on retweets, replies, and quote Tweets for each
  • Data on tweet author, mentioned users, tagged locations, hashtag and cashtag symbols, etc
  • Date, time, location, device info

That should satisfy any analytical needs to uncover potential bot trends, and get a better handle on Twitter’s bot problem, though it also means that Musk has all your tweet info – which, again, it’s worth noting, Twitter up till now had been hesitant to provide.

I’m sure it’s fine. Musk’s team is beholden to disclosure laws around such, so it’s not like they can do anything much with that info anyway, in a legal sense. But the idea that the sometimes erratic Elon Musk now has all the tweets could be a little concerning for some.

But Twitter likely had to provide what it can, and if Musk is going to become CEO of the app soon anyway, he’s going to have access to all of that data either way.

But still, given Musk and Co’s past history of undermining and attacking critics, sacking trouble maker employees and digging up potential dirt on rivals, it sits a little uneasy.

Should be fine. No problems – no need to go deleting all your DMs (which are likely not included in the data that Twitter has provided at this stage).

According to reports, Musk’s team says that it now has the info it needs to make its assessment of bot activity, which should see the deal move forward (or not) sometime soon.

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Of course, no one knows what exactly is going to happen next, and whether Musk’s team will look to renegotiate, or even back out of the deal entirely as a result of its bot analysis. But it does seem like, one way or another, Musk will be forced to go ahead with the $44 billion transaction, with Twitter’s past bot reporting methodology already accepted by the SEC, giving it legal grounding to argue that it’s acted in good faith, regardless of what Musk’s team finds.

The next steps then, according to Musk, would be securing debt financing and gaining Twitter shareholder approval, clearing the last hurdles for Musk to change the app’s name to ‘Telsla Social’, and add a million references to ‘420’ into the platforms various terms and conditions.

Because of the memes, because weed jokes are still funny to the richest man in the world – because he vacillates between inspired genius and a massive nerd who now gets to play out some fantasy of being cool.

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Or something. Who knows what goes on in Elon Musk’s head – which is also why most are hesitant to bet against him, as nobody knows if and how he might be able to fix Twitter, and whether this is a great investment or a massive disaster.

It seems like we may soon find out. Maybe. Who knows. Either way, the memes should be great.



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