A researcher posing as a 13-year-old girl witnessed grooming, sexual material and racist insults in a virtual reality world.
Chair of the online child safety policy Andy Burrows said the investigation discovered “a toxic combination of risks.”
The BBC News researcher – who used an app with a minimum age of 13, was able to enter virtual reality rooms where avatars were simulating sex. She also witnessed sex toys and condoms being demonstrated and was virtually approached by numerous adult men.
Within VRChat, there are meeting rooms where users interact on a normal basis: some are innocent and average but there is also virtual pole dancing and strip clubs.
Children can interact freely with adults: one user informed the BBC researcher that avatars can “get naked and do unspeakable things,” while others discussed “erotic role-play”
Following the BBC News investigation, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) called for urgent improvements to online safety.
Burrows, of the NSPCC, was both shocked and angry at the “extraordinary” findings.
“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,” he said.
Meta says it has tools that will allow players to block other users and will be making safety improvements “as it learns how people interact in these spaces”.
For more information, read the original story on the BBC.