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BBC report exposes VRChat app used to groom children

"Everything about the rooms feels unnerving."

A new report has revealed grooming and inappropriate behaviour being directed towards minors in the VRChat app.

Warning: this article details disturbing content related to the sexual harassment of minors.

The BBC report documents researcher Jess Sherwood's experience while using VRChat. Posing as a 13-year-old girl, Sherwood used a Meta Quest headset to enter different virtual reality rooms. When she was in, she was approached by grown men who asked her why she "wasn't in school" before encouraging her to take part in VR sex acts.

In a virtual strip club, Sherwood witnessed men chasing a child round, instructing them to remove their clothing. These rooms contained sex toys and condoms, and one user began simulating sexual acts with a beer bottle on the female characters in the room.

She also bore witness to racial insults and threats of rape while using the VR app.

"Everything about the rooms feels unnerving. There are characters simulating sex acts on the floor in big groups, speaking to one another like children play-acting at being adult couples", Sherwood said.

"It's very uncomfortable, and your options are to stay and watch, move on to another room where you might see something similar, or join in - which, on many occasions, I was instructed to do".

Another VR user told the BBC that they had to intervene and protect a seven-year-old who was being threatened with rape while using a Meta owned app.

"I shouldn't have had to do that, but that's because there's no moderation, or apparently very little moderation."

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) representative Mr Burrows told the BBC, "This is a product that is dangerous by design, because of oversight and neglect. We are seeing products rolled out without any suggestion that safety has been considered".

In response to this report, VRChat told the BBC it was: "working hard to make itself a safe and welcoming place for everyone".

"Predatory and toxic behaviour has no place on the platform".

Meanwhile, Bill Stillwell from Meta stated: "We want everyone using our products to have a good experience and easily find the tools that can help in situations like these, so we can investigate and take action. For cross platform apps...we provide tools that allow players to report and block users."

"We will continue to make improvements as we learn more about how people interact in these spaces."

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