Roblox: A naked man, wearing a dog collar and lead, is led by a woman wearing a slave garment on the floor. Two deacons danced near the bar.
The group gathered the couple having sex freely, watching and occasionally commenting.
One man in a Nazi uniform.
This is not happening in the real world, it is happening in a children’s playground.
It is one of the most popular children’s games in the world.
The exact figures are obscure, but by 2020 Roblox told Bloomberg that two-thirds of all U.S. children aged nine and 12, use the game.
Roblox allows users to build and play games together. It is a way of communicating, in real time, with other people in the digital world.
Players can create games, using the developer tools provided by the stadium. A very successful business model, but also comes with problems.
Roblox sex games are often referred to on the platform as “condos”. They are posts, created by users, where people can talk about sex – and where their avatars can have real sex.
Roblox admits it has a problem: “We know there is a very small group of users who are deliberately trying to break the rules,” a BBC spokesman told the BBC.
Roblox says it is always trying to make these games offline – using both hand-made and automated systems.
“We check the security of every photo, video, and audio file uploaded to Roblox, using a combination of human and machine detection,” he said.
But some explicit content goes into the net. It’s a “cat and mouse” story, says Larry Magid, president of ConnectSafely – a non-profit organization that raises awareness about child safety online.
“There are people who come out in large numbers playing programs,” he said.
Condo are not a game
These condo are not a game you can stumble upon. You will need to search them further. But their very presence worries people like Mr. Magid: “Roblox is a very popular platform among children, and allows for children under 13, so it has a special responsibility to protect its users.”
What is even more worrying is that children and adults can get together in these places. Part of the game includes instant messaging where users can talk – and everyone who plays the game.
Roblox told the BBC they had developed ‘Parental Controls’ tools, “which could be used to limit who children are in contact with and what experience they can access”.
But that assumes that parents are technically knowledgeable enough to know about these protections.
Roblox wanted to emphasize to the BBC that condos are often difficult to find on the platform. But the BBC has found the wrong sexual language in official games.
According to Dr. Liraz Margalit, a digital psychologist who studies online behavior, people behave differently in metaverse – just as they do online. He said: “You have no anonymity and you have the power to block. This forum gives you a playground to do whatever you want.”
Last week, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, introduced a new “Personal Boundary” feature in its original game “Horizon Venues”.
The game allows people to meet in different places – where their avatars can watch sports, attend concerts or do gym classes together.
The changes came after a woman claimed she had been sexually assaulted on stage.
Roblox told the BBC: “We have absolutely no tolerance of sexual content or behavior of any kind, and we take immediate action against anyone found to be violating our Community Standards.”
And just days after the BBC posted its findings to the company, Roblox published a blogpost summarizing what it does to protect young people.
Companies like Microsoft, Meta and Roblox are currently running to build metaverses. But there are already signs that they are struggling to cool the visible world.