Are ‘Crypto Brothers’ going to make a hell of a metaverse for women?

The scene is violent. It happens at the end of December in Horizon Worlds, a beta version of the metaverse created by the Meta Group (formerly Facebook). An English language tester says that just a minute after it was activated, her avatar was attacked by four other people who tried to touch her, insulted her and told her to masturbate. She tried to escape first and ended up separating herself. She described what she had been subjected to as “rape”.

Not because the universe is new is that the act is unprecedented. In 2016, an American gamer told in a post on Medium that she had a similar attack in “QuiVr,” a virtual reality game where you play as shooters. Explain that the player owns it ‘With disc motions near [sa] chest. He pushed his hand towards him [son] The virtual crotch started rubbing. »

If these two attacks are straightforward, others are more subtle. Just type “teabagging” on YouTube. For those who don’t have the emoticons, the scene may seem almost funny. On the screen, we see an avatar on the floor on which other characters perform a kind of squat. Symbolically, he is actually putting his testicles on the face of the defeated player. Code issue.

Geeks and Golden Boys, Two Cultures of ‘Testosterone’

These incidents remind us that the metaverse is not synonymous with a “safe place”, for women in particular, but for all of the “unciphered fraternity” in general. “This phenomenon is the result of the convergence of two hitherto opposing cultures,Geeks and golden boys, Francois Peretti, chief planner at advertising and marketing agency Nikkei, analyzes. The misogyny that is ingrained in this crypto-economy is at the crossroads of geek ideology that few insiders have mastered, and the testosterone and adrenaline fantasy of traders. »

In other words, the metaverse is at a crossroads between two worlds that are mostly racy, and even utterly anti-women: technology and finance. This is evidenced by the recent sexist campaigns of cyber-attacks in which two MEPs, France’s Aurour Lallock, for supporting European legislation aimed at regulating crypto assets, and Belgium’s Asita Kankou, co-rapporteur of the draft directive.

digital raids

Aggravating circumstances, these universes are used in the network. Who says network says interactions. Sometimes for the worse. Trolling, raiding, exposing sluts, group harassment, online stalking or bullying… There are many violent practices against women. In 2019, 44% of French people said they were victims or witnesses of sexism on social networks, according to figures collected on the website Statista. “On the Internet, toxicity towards women is obvious,” Stella Jacob, Game and Story Designer. A number is regularly put up on specialized sites: 77% of players have experienced harassment. This is why six out of ten female players prefer to play with a male avatar.

A fine of up to 30 thousand euros

Since August 2018, the Anti-SGBV law has been strengthened by adding multiple perpetrators to the frequency of attacks. Target? Punish digital raids by many people who act collectively (or not). But be warned, it only takes once for you to be convicted. And the penalties imposed: imprisonment for two years and a fine of 3,000 euros.

To convince skeptics, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, a professional female player known by the pen name Jakim, one of the top players in “Counter-Strike: Global Office”, tested playing a female avatar. Within minutes, comments were raining down: Your voice is beautifulAnd the Your breasts will be your bulletproof net. or anyway Girls can’t play. He also made more outrageous statements.

Because the body online matters. A simple historical reminder: these crypto brothers are direct descendants of the geeks, yesterday’s “extraordinary” rebels (in other words, “nerds” outcasts from society), today in a position of domination (economically, professionally, culturally, etc.). Above all, they are not women. Hence the phenomenon of “Fake Geek Girl” that makes fun of gamers because they are not real geeks. As a result, geek Pete Warden notes: “Our deep sense of victimhood has become a pernicious justification for bullying,” In his article “Why Nerd Culture Must Die” (2014).

When will the digital wild west end?

in metaverses, “These geeks want to be alpha males”, Summarizes Stella Jacob. Above all, they are currently navigating a true digital wild west. Moderation tools are still in their infancy today.

After the experimenter avatar’s aggression in Horizon Worlds, Mark Zuckerberg’s company imagined the first tech solutions. Among them is the “Safe Zone” option, which allows you to move your instantaneous avatar to a safe space if you feel threatened. or the “Block” or “Report” buttons, available to users against avatars that insult or behave badly towards them. And even the creation of a “personal limit” (“safe bubble”), which sets a distance of one meter between avatars.

There are also other examples of virtual justice experiences. Introduced in court in May 2011, it was tested in the “League of Legends” game. This feature allowed players to evaluate specific instances in which players reported another player’s behavior and decide what action to take. Those mentioned were rewarded with tokens. A feature that allowed society to self-organise. But the test stopped there.

“Bandage on a sunken wound”

“Moderation is generally like a bandage on an expanding wound,” Stella Jacob specializes in these issues, recalls. Before marking: “Especially since it is generally up to the victim to act and withdraw to be safe.” Well, metaverses in video games and social networks do not include women in a large way. “It is difficult for a woman to penetrate this world”, Francois Peretti adds. Shouldn’t we go there?

The answer is “go ahead” in the chorus of sector professionals. The most optimistic highlights the “infinite possibilities” offered by metaverses and even if they do not eschew deviant behavior, they rely on self-regulation by online communities. They remember that a minority of the crypto brothers are opposed by a large majority of market players who do not intend to deprive themselves of half of humanity.

Initiatives illustrating this desire for change are multiplying: whether it is the Feminist Blockchain Manifesto published by Claudia Hart, Pussy Riots’ investment in cryptocurrency/NFT, the Ladies Get Paid Club or NFTs by Emily Ratajkowski and the “women’s world,” participating in the emergence of feminism hidden.

45% of cryptocurrency investors are women

Men still invest twice as much as women in cryptocurrency (16% compared to 7%), according to a 2021 US survey by Acorns and CNBC media. But women are starting to take it seriously. According to a 2022 Gemini study, 47% of “suspicious” people are women. Women in France are also the lowest, as according to this study, nearly half (45%) of cryptocurrency investors are women.

The evolution of behavior will also pass through the training and recruitment of women to design the scales. Ridwan Abaghari, director of the first school dedicated exclusively to these worlds, which opens its doors in September in Paris, knows this and wants to encourage as many women as possible to train. A necessary bet since today only one-fifth (20%) of the IT workforce is women. Undoubtedly, the challenges are many. But how can we hope to make this new world a “safe space” for women when the rest of the “real” world is far from it?

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