The metaverse will bring new forms of toxicity and will require new tools

As the adoption of the metaverse approaches, toxic behavior is a factor that seems inevitable. Such behavior is now unfortunately productive in online communities. The behavior will likely carry over to the metaverse, if not always in the same way. Several online safety experts spoke on the topic at GamesBeat and Facebook Gaming’s Into the Metaverse 2 event.

The panel consisted of Tiffany Xingyu Wang, Spectrum Labs head of strategy and marketing; Laura Higgins, director of community safety and courtesy at Roblox; and Rachel Franklin SVP of Positive Play at Electronic Arts. They covered what toxicity in the metaverse will look like and how companies can prevent it.

Wang said the behavior in the metaverse could potentially be worse in the metaverse: “I think the attributes that draw people to the metaverse offer as much potential as there are dangers. We’re talking immersiveness, which would amplify the impact of toxicity. We we’re talking persistence, which would cause the rate or turnaround time to toxicity, we’re talking about the realization of imaginary selves, which would increase exposure to potentially disruptive behavior.”

One factor, all panelists agreed, was that metaverse experiences should be built with safety and positivity in mind. Higgins said: “It’s really hard to adjust security afterwards when everything is already known. It’s much better to build from scratch with those things in place. People now have to think differently if they want to build experiences for the metaverse.”


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Franklin agreed, saying that the tools to protect themselves in the metavers will be particularly important. “Not every environment will be the same. We don’t want everything to be G-rated… How can we build ways so that people who are actually in that application or game can maintain what that community is about?’

One of the issues the panelists identified is that the same tools don’t necessarily apply to the entire metaverse. Higgins pointed out that education will be key. “There is a real opportunity to teach, and for people to understand…. The same way we have to regulate ourselves in the real world – walk into a room and people can see how you act, the way you react to people communicating, body language, that sort of thing. They will in fact become much more real within the metaverse. I think, hopefully, some people will be held accountable. But they need to be taught that these things are really going to apply now that they didn’t really have to think about before.”

Franklin agreed, adding that education and clear communication can go a long way toward keeping metaverse and metaverse adjacent spaces non-toxic: “Sometimes we see a drastic change in behavior if we just tell people what the rules or guidelines are.” People generally don’t want to be horrible to each other.”

Wang added, “I think what’s very encouraging is that as we step into this new iteration of the web, we have an opportunity to get it right…. Security was kind of an afterthought in Web2. When we moving into the metaverse and the new infrastructure and experience, this conversation comes at the right time.”

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