Oculus released an update yesterday that brought screen casting to its standalone VR headset, Oculus Go. In a measure to increase user safety on the platform, the company also launched a new security feature which now lets you to send video reports to their Safety Center when others have broken the company’s code of conduct.
The new function, which is now live on Oculus Go and Gear VR (coming to Rift next month), lets you record a two and half-minute video to report when other users have engaged in what the company considers abusive content or behavior. The new feature lets you send both text and now video reports from inside any VR app or game on the Oculus platform, which is then reviewed by the Oculus Community Operations team; to report abusive behavior, you have to physically engage the Video Report option from the Oculus menu at the time of the offense.
Oculus’ code of conduct bans the following user behaviors while in games or apps on the platform:
- You may not use or promote sexually explicit, abusive or obscene content.
- You may not use or promote language or content that would qualify as hateful or racially offensive. We don’t allow content that attacks people based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, diseases or disability.
- You may not harass, bully, threaten other users, or encourage other users to do so.
- You may not encourage, celebrate or promote real-world violence.
- You may not encourage or promote illegal activity.
- You may not impersonate an Oculus employee, partner, representative, other real person or encourage other users to do so.
Oculus hasn’t clarified whether punitive actions are platform-wide, or only affect a user’s ability to join a specific game or app where the offense occurred.
Taking a Virtual Step Back
As the company broadens its safety measures, it invariably drives the point home that the company’s VR platform is moving forward with many of same conduct policies seen on other social networks and video streaming services—seemingly par for the course as the VR arm of Facebook. Virtual reality cuts a bit closer to the bone than Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube though, as users casually transmit not only their voices and actions for extended periods of time, but also a startling amount of user data to Facebook in the process.
- information about the people, content, and experiences you connect to and how you interact with them across Oculus Services.
- depending on which Services you use, user-submitted information about your physical features and dimensions.
- information about content you create using Oculus Services, such as your avatar, a picture you post, or an object you sculpt.
- content and information that other people provide when they use the Services. This can include information about you, like when they send us an abuse report that refers to or contains video of you.
- information about your environment, physical movements, and dimensions when you use an XR device. For example, when you set up the Oculus Guardian System to alert you when you approach a boundary, we receive information about the play area that you have defined
- information through device settings you choose, such as your photos or audio content.
Side note: that data rests with Facebook and its partners unless you willfully delete it according to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). And should a user actually break a local law while using Oculus’ services, the company also has the right to access, preserve and share information with regulators, law enforcement or others regardless of legal jurisdiction. Oculus tempers this somewhat when it says the offense must also be “consistent with internationally recognized standards.”
It seems now the company is intent on more strictly enforcing good user behavior through its extralegal code of conduct; muting, hiding and blocking users on a case-by-case basis just isn’t enough for the company any more as it makes way for the glut of users on its path to what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hopes will be one billion users someday. These lines aren’t being drawn in sand though, but rather set in stone to create what the company ultimately hopes will be a positive and approachable environment moving forward.
What the future holds, we can’t say, but it’s these early moments when the seeds are planted that will redefine privacy, expectations of online safety, and ultimately freedom of speech. Following and examining these formative moments is exactly why we’re traveling on Road to VR.