There’s a special place in Hell for people who think it’s funny to rape a 7-year-old girl’s avatar in an online virtual world designed for children. Yes, that happened. Roblox, a hugely popular online game for kids, was hacked by an individual who subverted the game’s protection systems in order to have sầu customized animations appear. This allowed two male avatars to gang rape a young girl’s avatar on a playground in one of the Roblox games.

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The company has now issued an apology to the victlặng and its community, and says it has determined how the hacker was able to lớn infiltrate its system so it can prevent future incidents.

The mother of the child, whose avatar was the victlặng of the in-game sexual assault, was nearby when the incident took place. She says her child showed her what was happening on the screen và she took the device away, fortunately shielding her daughter from seeing most of the activity. The mother then captured screenshots of the event in order lớn warn others.

She described the incident in a public Facebook post that read, in part:

At first, I couldn’t believe sầu what I was seeing. My sweet & innocent daughter’s avatar was being VIOLENTLY GANG-RAPED ON A PLAYGROUND by two males. A female obVPS approached them & proceeded to lớn jump on her toàn thân at the over of the act. Then the 3 characters ran away, leaving my daughter’s avatar laying on her face in the middle of the playground.

Words cannot describe the shochồng, disgust, và guilt that I am feeling right now, but I’m trying to put those feelings aside so I can get this warning out to lớn others as soon as possible. Thankfully, I was able khổng lồ take screenshots of what I was witnessing so people will realize just how horrific this experience was. *screenshots in comments for those who can stomach it* Although I was immediately able to lớn shield my daughter from seeing the entire interaction, I am shuddering to think of what kind of damage this image could have on her psybít, as well as any other child that could potentially be exposed lớn this.

Roblox has since issued a statement about the attack:

Roblox’s mission is khổng lồ inspire imagination và it is our responsibility khổng lồ provide a safe và civil platsize for play. As safety is our top priority — we have robust systems in place lớn protect our platform & users. This includes automated giải pháp công nghệ to traông xã & monitor all communication between our players as well as a large team of moderators who work around the clock lớn đánh giá all the nội dung uploaded inkhổng lồ a game & investigate any inappropriate activity. We provide parental controls lớn empower parents khổng lồ create the most appropriate experience for their child, and we provide individual users with protective sầu tools, such as the ability to lớn block another player.

The incident involved one bad actor that was able to subvert our protective sầu systems & exploit one instance of a game running on a single hệ thống. We have sầu zero tolerance for this behavior and we took immediate action lớn identify how this individual created the offending action and put safeguards in place to prsự kiện it from happening again. In addition, the offender was identified và permanently banned from the platsize. Our work on safety is never-ending and we are committed khổng lồ ensuring that one individual does not get in the way of the millions of children who come lớn Roblox khổng lồ play, create, và imagine.

The timing of the incident is particularly notable for the kids’ gaming platkhung, which has more than 60 million monthly active users & is now raising up lớn $150 million to grow its business. The company has been flying under the radar for years, while quietly amassing a large audience of both players & developers who build its virtual worlds. Roblox recently stated that it expects to lớn pay out its nội dung creators $70 million in 2018, which is double that of last year. 

Roblox has a number of built-in controls khổng lồ guard against bad behavior, including a nội dung filter và a system that has moderators reviewing images, Clip và audio files before they’re uploaded khổng lồ Roblox’s site. It also offers parental controls that let parents decide who can chat with their kids, or the ability khổng lồ turn chat off. And parents can restrict kids under 13 from accessing anything but a curated các mục of age-appropriate games.

However, Roblox was also in the process of moving some of its older user-generated games khổng lồ a newer system that’s more secure. The hacked game was one of several that could have sầu been exploited in a similar way.

Since the incident, Roblox had its developers remove sầu all the other potentially vulnerable games và ask their creators to lớn move sầu them over lớn the newer, more fortified system. Most have sầu done so, & those who have sầu not will not see their games allowed back online until that occurs. The games that are online now are not vulnerable khổng lồ the exploit the hacker used.

The company responded quickly to take action, in terms of taking the game offline, banning the player và reaching out the mother — who has since agreed to help Roblox get the word out to others about the safeguards parents can use to protect kids in Roblox further.

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But the incident raises questions as khổng lồ whether kids should be playing these sorts of massive sầu multiplayer games at such a young age at all.

Roblox, sadly, is not surprised that someone was interested in a haông xã like this.

YouTube is filled with videos of Roblox rape hacks và exploits, in fact. The company submits takedown requests to lớn YouTube when videos lượt thích this are posted, but YouTube only takes action on a fraction of the requests. (YouTube has its own issues around nội dung moderation.)

It’s long past time for there to be real-world ramifications for in-game assaults that can have sầu lasting psychological consequences on victims, when those victims are children.

Roblox, for its part, is heavily involved in discussions about what can be done, but the issue is complex. COPPA laws prsự kiện Roblox from collecting data on its users, including their personal information, because the law is meant khổng lồ protect kids’ privacy. But the flip side of this is that Roblox has no way of tracking down hackers lượt thích this.

“I think that we’re not the only one pondering the challenges of this. I think every platform company out there is struggling with the same thing,” says Tamày Bhaumik, head of kinh doanh & community safety at Roblox.

“We’re members of the Family Online Safety Institute, which is over 30 companies who giới thiệu best practices around digital citizenship & child safety & all of that,” she continues. “And this is a constant topic of conversation that we all have – in terms of how bởi we use công nghệ, how vì we use A.I. và machine learning? Do we work with the credit card companies to lớn try khổng lồ verify ? How vị we get around not violating COPPA regulations?,” says Bhaumik.

“The problem is super complex, và I don’t think anyone involved has solved that yet,” she adds.

One solution could be forcing parents to lớn sign up their kids and add a credit thẻ, which would remain uncharged unless kids broke the rules.

That could dampen user growth lớn some extent — locking out the under-banked, those hesitant to lớn use their credit cards online and those just generally distrustful of gaming companies and unwanted charges. It would mean kids couldn’t just tải về the phầm mềm and play.

But Roblox has the momentum & scale now lớn lock things down. There’s enough demvà for the game that it could create more of a barrier lớn entry if it chose to, in an effort khổng lồ better protect users. After all, if players knew they’d be fined (or their parents would be), it would be less attractive to lớn break the rules.

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