Meta adding 18 and up a tag in Horizon Worlds to mature VR content

Meta is expanding the type of content allowed in the virtual worlds people make for Horizon Worlds; its platform lets people create V.R. spaces for shared experiences.

The company has counted an 18 and up tag for user-created planets and updated its policy to permit creators to include “mature” content that was previously banned altogether.

According to UploadVR, designers who have published worlds received an email stating they have to manually mark whether their globe is mature or safe for all audiences — if they don’t, it will be determined to 18 and up by default.

Based on a Wayback Machine library of Meta’s Horizon Mature Worlds Policy page from April, Meta is now allowing previously banned content. For example, the carrier used to say that sexually suggestive content, descriptions of “regulated goods or activities” like alcohol and weed, and graphically violent content were thoroughly off-limits in Horizon Worlds. Now, you may be capable of including those things in your world, as long as you keep it as mature.

If you mark your term mature, you can include “sexually suggestive” content, like “near nudity, depictions of people in implied or suggestive positions, or an environment focused on overly suggestive activities.” However, you can’t do flat-out porn; “nudity, portrayals of people in explicit positions, or content or globes that are sexually provocative or implied” are still prohibited.

The same goes for regulated substances and violence. You can have mature worlds dedicated to or focused on “the promotion of marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, or age-regulated activities (including gambling)” but can’t promote “illegal drugs or abuse of prescription drugs.” And while you can have “intense or excessively violent fictional content” with blood and gore “that could shock or disgust users,” you can’t show real-life violence.

You may notice that there are quite a few places where the lines are blurry. For example, how suggestive is too suggestive when it comes to sex? And in the U.S., weed is an illegal drug in many places. But, for a company that views metaverse moderation as critical to its success, Meta is leaving room for issues to crop up with creators who want to push the boundaries.

Meta has had issues ensuring that Horizon is a “safe and welcoming environment for everyone,” as its policy page says. It introduced a system that, by default, prevents other users from getting their avatars too close to yours after complaints that people had been mimicking sexual harassment during the game’s beta. It’s also introduced a feature that lets you make people’s voices unintelligible if you’re not friends with them, which could help avoid harassment in virtual public spaces.

Horizon Worlds is a free V.R. online video game with an integrated game creation system conceived and published by Meta Platforms for Oculus Quest 2 and Oculus Rift S. It was unleashed in Canada and the U.S. to people 18 or older on December 9, 2021, after an invite-only beta phase.

The game may be recreated with an Oculus Rift S or Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset and uses full 3D motion thru the motion capture system of the headset and two hand-held motion controllers, which are needed to interact with objects in the game. Players can analyze the space around them within the confines of their physical floor-space while wandering further by using controller keys to teleport a short distance or to move continuously through the virtual space. The hub world includes portals to featured user-generated worlds created by players using an integrated game creation system.

The development of Horizon Worlds followed earlier social V.R. apps by Facebook and focused more on user-generated content than these earlier apps. Facebook revealed Facebook Horizon as a new social virtual world at the Oculus Connect 6 conference in September 2019. In August 2020, Facebook said that more users would receive credentials to an invite-only beta phase. However, in an interview with Scott Stein in January 2021, Facebook Reality Labs head Andrew Bosworth disclosed that the experiences in Facebook Horizon are not ready for the public and expressed concern that “if you don’t have … something driving a lot of people to the place, then you execute the risk they’re not going to bring it.”

In August 2021, Facebook unleashed the open beta of Horizon Workrooms, a collaboration app targeted at teams driving remote-work environments. The app suggests virtual meeting rooms, whiteboards, and video call integration for up to 50 people.

Facebook revised the name Facebook Horizon to Horizon Worlds. After an invite-only beta grade, the game was unleashed in the U.S. and Canada to people 18 or older on December 9, 2021.

On November 26, 2021, a beta user reported being groped on Horizon Worlds and that other users supported the conduct. Meta responded that there is a tool called “Safe Zone” that users can initiate to protect themselves from interactions with others. Unfortunately, a second reported incident emerged in December 2021 when a female user claimed they were virtually gang-raped by about 3 to 4 male users after joining the platform.

In February 2022, Meta, in reply to the incidents, added a “personal boundary” to Horizon Worlds and Venues, creating an invisible that can contain users from coming within four feet of other avatars. Plans were also revealed for users to change the size of this limit in the future. The boundary feature is similar to standard parts in competing platforms VRChat and Rec Room, though with options to disable and change the existing boundary size.

In 2022, Mark Zuckerberg said a mobile phone version of Horizon Worlds would launch later in 2022.