A Meta’s Horizon Worlds early test user has discovered that her avatar was almost groped within the metaverse.

The incident, acknowledged by Meta (the company formerly known as Facebook), took place during Horizon Worlds’ beta testing and was reported November 26.    

Horizon Worlds, finally released by Meta on December 9, allows users in the US and Canada to gather with others, play games and build their own virtual worlds. 

It’s an early step in Meta’s ambition to transform into a ‘metaverse’ – a collective virtual shared space featuring avatars of real people. 

The recent incident raised questions about safety in the metaverse, and suggested that there is ‘a groping problem’ with the virtual universe.  

Horizon Worlds, released by Meta on December 9, allows users in the US and Canada to gather with others, play games and build their own virtual worlds. An early tester of Meta's Horizon Worlds metaverse app said her avatar was virtually groped by a stranger

Meta’s Horizon Worlds was released on December 9. It allows Canadian and US users to meet up, play games, or create virtual worlds. A Horizon Worlds beta tester for Meta said her avatar had been virtually touched by strangers.


Horizon Worlds is a new gaming app released by Meta December 9. It allows people in the US or Canada to play games, create virtual worlds and gather together.

You must be 18 or older and you have the right equipment, a Quest 2 virtual-reality (VR) headset. 

Horizon World was first introduced in 2019, and it launched in beta last year. 

A Meta’s Horizon Worlds beta tester claimed her avatar was almost groped and manipulated by an unknown person. 

While sexual harassment can seem like a laughing matter on the Internet, it is not as common in VR. [virtual reality]The event is intensified by adding another layer,” The Verge quotes an unnamed beta test who posted the message in the Horizon official group on Facebook. 

“Not only did I get groped last night but other people supported it which left me feeling isolated.” 

In response to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s obsession with metaverses, the company acknowledged the incident and changed its name from Facebook (now Meta) in October. 

‘We want everyone in Horizon Worlds to have a positive experience with safety tools that are easy to find – and it’s never a user’s fault if they don’t use all the features we offer,’ Meta spokesperson Kristina Milian said. 

“We will keep improving our interface and understanding how users use our tools to make it easier for them to report problems quickly and reliable. 

“Our goal at Horizon Worlds is safety, and we’re committed to that. 

Meta concluded that the victim had to have used the safety device called “Safe Zone” in an internal investigation.

The protective bubble is activated by this inbuilt tool. No one can touch, talk to or interact with them. 

But Katherine Cross, a researcher of online harassment at the University of Washington, has criticised this attitude to safety in the metaverse. 

Cross explained to Technology Review that online abuse is a common problem for companies. They outsource the solution to users and then say “Here we give you power to take care yourself.”   

Meta told MailOnline that Horizon Worlds launched the beta last year with safety features built in from the start

Meta informed MailOnline, that Horizon Worlds released the beta version last year. It includes safety features from the beginning.

Meta's internal review of the incident found that the unnamed beta tester should have used a safety tool called 'Safe Zone'

Meta concluded that unnamed beta-tester should have used the safety tool ‘Safe Zone’ during its internal investigation of the incident


The “metaverse” is a collection of virtual places where you can play, work, and communicate with others who don’t live in the same space as you. 

Facebook explained, “You can hang out with your friends, work and play, learn, shop and create, and so on. 

‘It’s not necessarily about spending more time online — it’s about making the time you do spend online more meaningful.’

Facebook leads the charge in the metaverse. However, the company explained that this is not a product any one company can create. 

It added that “Just as the internet exists, the metaverse exists regardless of whether Facebook is present or not.” 

“And it will not be built overnight. Most of these products won’t be complete in the next 10 to 15 years. 


It is possible to create a virtual-reality space that is so convincing that the user thinks they’re physically there.

“It’s part why emotional reactions may be stronger there, and VR triggers the exact same internal nervous systems and psychological responses.

Even though it may seem less harmful than being touched in the physical world in virtual reality, another expert says that this is just another type of sexual harassment.  

Professor Jesse Fox from Ohio State University is a researcher in new technologies and told Technology Review that sexual harassment does not have to be physical. 

“It can be verbal and it is possible to have a virtual experience. 

It’s not the first time a user has been groped in VR – in 2016 a gamer by the name of Jordan Belamire described her experience of being virtually groped in Quivr, a VR game where players shoot zombies with arrows. 

Belamire, in an open letter posted on Medium, describes a user’s “floating hand” approaching her body and then starting to essentially rub her chest. 

‘”Stop!” He cried. Then he chased after me and made grabbing and pinching movements near my chest.

“Emboldened and encouraged, he shoved his hands towards my virtual waistline and started rubbing.

“There I was. Being virtually groped inside a snowy castle with my brother and wife watching. 

Aaron Stanton, the designer of Quivr, apologised and provided an in-game fix where users can push any offenders away using their virtual arms. 

A later review of the incident by University of Melbourne researchers said: ‘Many online responses to this incident were dismissive of Belamire’s experience and, at times, abusive and misogynistic. 

“On the contrary, many people shared her feelings and called for developers to adopt this type of behavior. 

“At the same, readers of all backgrounds struggled to understand this act in the virtual and humorous context that it took place.”

Meta told MailOnline that Horizon Worlds launched the beta last year with safety features built in from the start. 

As well as Safe Zone, these features include the ability to block and mute people, the ability to report people or content, and user complaints including recordings of the incident captured by the Oculus headset. 

‘We want Horizon Worlds to be a safe and respectful environment, so everyone must follow our Conduct in VR Policy,’ Meta said on the day of the app’s release.

‘You have several safety options, including access to your personal Safe Zone at any time through your wrist menu, which lets you take a break and then block, mute or report people.’ 


Two years after its conception, Meta officially launched the Horizon Worlds app for the public on December 9, 2009. 

Horizon Worlds may not be the fully realized metaverse CEO Mark Zuckerberg envisages. It is a future internet in which online interactions like chats with friends can eventually feel more human.

The app is the first step of Zuckerberg’s masterplan and allows users in the US and Canada to gather with others, play games and build their own virtual worlds on Horizon as long as they are 18 years old and have the proper equipment – a Quest 2 virtual reality (VR) headset.

Horizon World launched beta in 2018 and was announced for the first time in 2019. It’s now free to all users, without the requirement of an invitation.

The original app worked with Oculus 1, but Meta will end support in January 2013.

Horizon World first announced in 2019 and launched last year in beta, but is now out free to users without the need of an invitation. The app was originally compatible with the first Oculus, but Meta is set to end support on January 13

Horizon World was first revealed in 2019. It launched in beta last year. Users can now access it for free without the need to request an invitation. Although the app worked with Oculus at first, Meta will end its support for it on January 13.

Oculus was acquired by Meta for $2B in 2014. It was then still called Facebook. Meta worked hard to develop new technology and meet the needs of Oculus’ users.

Oculus, the key to creating its metaverse, is also crucial.

People can put on the headset to enter the virtual realm and be anyone or anything they want, from their home.

Meta allows people to create avatars that have specific features, such as skin colour, facial characteristics, and clothing.

These avatars can then go anywhere within virtual world – visit friends across the globe, attend a meeting without leaving their home office or even dine with family at an exotic restraint while sitting in their own kitchen. 

Horizon Worlds includes several smaller worlds that users can explore, including a retro, arcade-style multiplayer platform called Pixel Plummet and Wand & Broom, which lets users fly over Towncity on a magic broom

Then there is Mark’s Riverboat, which allows users and their friends to float down a river in the metaverse while on a triple decker riverboat.