Unbalanced Information Diet: Protecting the Facts / Escape into Metaverse Tainted by Abusive Users; Need for New Norms in Burgeoning Virtual Space

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A man in Aichi Prefecture immerses himself in the virtual reality world of the metaverse wearing a headset.

This is the fourth installment in a series examining situations in which conventional laws and ethics can no longer be relied on in the digital world, and exploring possible solutions.


Putting on a virtual reality headset, one sees a world that spans 360 degrees. This is the metaverse, a virtual online space.

In this imaginary space accessed by computer, users can interact with people across the globe.

“I can go out a little beyond reality and be immersed in a different world,” said a 27-year-old male company employee in Aichi Prefecture. The man has used a metaverse service provided by a U.S. company since September 2021.

The man’s avatar — his alter ego in the virtual reality space — is a beautiful girl. He views the avatar as another body that expresses his personality in the virtual world.

In the metaverse, he forms a small group of five to six people, and together they enjoy karaoke or watch movies. Sometimes their avatars even fall in love.

However, when he steps out into spaces open to everyone in the metaverse, he can be the target of abuse.

He has heard harsh words from other users who do not like his group of men who interact using girl avatars. One user said: “You’re an adult, escaping from reality. Aren’t you ashamed?”

The man was distressed at hearing such things, believing the metaverse should be a free space. “I felt there was an echo chamber, and this made users aggressive,” he said.

In the metaverse, users can block people they do not like as they would on X, formerly Twitter, allowing for a more uniform experience.

“Because users feel immersed, their experience of victimization seems real,” said Prof. Daisuke Tsuji, a researcher of communication sociology at Osaka University and a member of an expert panel on the metaverse for the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. “At the same time, since it’s not the real world, there may be some offenders who are abusive because they feel it’s a game.”

The market for the metaverse is expected to expand to include education, medical care and welfare, while the number of users is expected to grow rapidly.

In 2022, about 4.5 million people in Japan were metaverse users, and by 2030 this is forecast to rise to about 17.5 million.

The metaverse, which so commands our senses, has a real need for new norms.