Meta expands the type of content allowed in the virtual worlds that people create for Horizon Worlds, the platform that allows people to create VR spaces for shared experiences. The company added an 18 and up tag for user-created worlds and updated its policy to allow creators to include “mature” content that was previously banned entirely. In accordance Upload VRcreators who have published worlds received an email stating that they must manually mark their world as mature or safe for all audiences – if they don’t, it will be restricted to 18 and up by default.
Based on a Wayback Machine archive of the Meta’s Horizon Mature Worlds Policy page from April, this means that the Meta is now allowing content that was previously banned. The site used to say that sexually oriented content, depictions of “regulated goods or activities” such as weed and alcohol, and graphically violent content were completely prohibited in Horizon Worlds. Now, you might be able to include that kind of thing in your world, as long as you mark it as mature.
Of course, there are still restrictions. Let’s break them down.
If you mark your word as adult, you can include “sexually suggestive” content, such as “near nudity, depictions of people in suggestive or suggestive positions, or an environment that focuses on activities that are overly suggestive.” But you can not do flat-out porn; “nudity, depictions of people in explicit positions, or content or worlds that are sexually provocative or implied” are still prohibited.
The same applies to regulated drugs and violence. You can have mature worlds dedicated to or focused on the “marketing of marijuana, alcohol, tobacco or age-regulated activities (including gambling)”, but you cannot promote “illegal drugs or prescription drug abuse”. And while you can have “intense or excessively violent fictional content” with blood and gore “that may shock or disgust users,” you can’t show the real life violence.
You may notice that there are quite a few places where the lines are blurred. How suggestive is too suggestive when it comes to sex? And in the US, weed is an illegal drug in many places. For a company that sees metaverse moderation as critical to its success, Meta definitely leaves room for issues that can arise with creators who want to push the boundaries.
Meta has struggled to ensure that Horizon is a “safe and welcoming environment for all,” as the 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 imitated sexual harassment during the game’s beta. A feature has also been introduced that allows you to make people’s voices unintelligible if you are not friends with them, which can help avoid harassment in virtual public spaces.