In addition to hosting about 600 VR events annually, Educators in VR offers regular event hosting and moderation training sessions to help you integrate VR into your classes and training. This is not one of those guides.
This article is in response to another ongoing incident of trolling through social VR platforms. We are here to help you manage your public events on AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, and other VR and virtual social, events, and educational platforms, and that also means assisting you with understanding how to respond to disruption in public VR events and workshops.
Last year, in response to the Black Lives Matter protests and other civil unrest throughout the United States and the world, trolls with a focus on hate made their way through the VR metaverse, verbally attacking and disrupting public events and activities. With the uptick in violence in the US capital and across the United States and US inauguration, the trolls have returned.
VR social and event platforms have dramatically strengthened their security features, and continue to do so with every new assault. We survived last year’s attacks, and we will survive again.
We encourage you to continue exploring and using VR for educational purposes as it is one of the safest social places in the world right now. Where else can you bring together people from around the world to feel like they are together in person, to share, learn, and have fun together with zero chance of infection?
Let’s be really clear. We are not talking about users who are goofing around and seeking attention. Those are easily dealt with and often modify their behavior when invited to do so and understand what they are doing is a disruption. We are talking about those with a clear intent to do harm. As educators, we believe in communication and compassion when working with disruptive individuals. Unfortunately, this group doesn’t want to talk. They want to disrupt. Until they are willing to listen, we use our tools.
Here are tips for managing trolls in AltspaceVR and ENGAGE VR, similar to managing the experience on other platforms. Check the user guides (listed below) for other platforms to understand their event hosting and moderation features.
General Troll Awareness and Response Guide
Public events in VR are a fantastic way to reach an audience of new and experienced VR users, and to connect, teach, train, and socialize with global audience. As an event host, you set the tone for your event, including your moderation policies with your audience and moderators.
Some events have a moderate level of moderation, messaging users one or more times with warnings, or muting and allowing them to continue in the event without removal, anticipating a modification in their disruptive behavior.
Other events have a zero tolerance for disruption, and say so in the event description and at the start of the event. Any disruption will result in immediate removal, no warnings. Let your moderators know the level of moderation.
Irregardless of the moderation level, hate, rude, violent, and racist speech is unacceptable. Advise your moderators to remove anyone purposefully intent on disruption.
As a community that is enriched by this multi-cultural environment, there will be no tolerance for bigotry regarding any user’s race, nationality, spiritual beliefs, physical abilities or sexual orientation. Any language that is meant to defame or injure another user will result in an immediate suspension and determination as to whether the account will be closed permanently.
Instant removal is key to preserving the intention and quality of your class or event. The metaverse trolls are bent on disruption and attention-seeking. They cannot harm us physically, so they do their best to let their violent and racist speech disrupt our experience.
As an event host, the key is to not let them distract you. Let your event moderators remove the trolls efficiently, apologize to your audience for the disruption, and stay on task.
For experienced teachers, this isn’t much different from classroom experiences. The joy in VR is that we have the tools to remove the disruptors so they don’t return. Come on, we know you want that in the real world.
The process to respond to a troll is:
- Mute first.
- Remove second.
Silencing them gives you time to report. If you try to remove them from the event first, there is a delay as you move through reporting menus, allowing them to continue to spew their vile words. Mute first. Kick second.
Both AltspaceVR and ENGAGE offer mute all features for events, muting the entire audience until you unmute them individually or en mass. We highly recommend activating that once the event begins to limit the number of open mics.
As you and your moderators monitor the crowds, know that display names and user names are not indicative of a potential troll. Some people are either naive or tend to make bad decisions before being educated otherwise. Many trolls use “human” sounding names to avoid immediate detection. Same goes for avatar and clothing choices. They likely do not look like trolls.
Social VR platforms work hard to stay open and yet restrictive enough to make life a little more complicated for those intent on doing harm. Like our classrooms, it is always a fine line and challenge to maintain respect, control, tolerance, and freedom of expression.
Remember, this only impacts events that are open-to-the-public, not private. Many events remain troll-free.
AltspaceVR Hosting and Moderation Tools
The key to limiting the damage these verbal abuses is to use the Mute All feature in the Host Tools.
When you are ready for interactivity, turn on the Raise Hand feature to add a hand button to the lower right corner of the user’s screen. When clicked, the user is added to the Participation queue. Unmute them when it is their turn to speak, and mute them when done, removing them from the list to focus on the other audience questions or comments.
The ratio of moderators to audience members is about 1 to 15. Most events in AltspaceVR are limited to 30, so 2-3 moderators at this time is recommended. One or two is normally acceptable.
Have one moderator keep the Host Panel open to Participation or Open Mics. When a person speaks, they will see the vocal activity level on the screen. Click the hamburger lines to access the options for that individual. Mute first, then remove the speaker from the event if appropriate directly from the Host Panel screen. This prevents the need to chase them to grab their name tag for action as some experienced trolls move around quickly to avoid capture and action.
After confirming the kick, ensure moderators select Trolling on the removal report. This sends a flag to the AltspaceVR staff on duty to track and monitor for trolling behavior and potentially act to remove them permanently.
Unfortunately, the removal is not permanent as some trolls create a new account and continue their attacks. We need to be just as persistent.
Similar to AltspaceVR, public events in ENGAGE have the ability to offer various mute and removal features. So far, ENGAGE has seen few troll experiences.
- Mute All: Mutes all of the audience members.
- Mute All But Allow UnMute: An option on the Mute All dialogue box allows users to unmute themselves.
If you are hosting an event open-to-the-public and you are unfamiliar with those entering, consider using only the first option.
Among the other event hosting settings is the ability to moderate by removing someone from the session with the option to return, or banning them so they will not be able to return. There is no reporting system yet in ENGAGE so this is a fairly quick action.
Check their ENGAGE Events Guide for more specifics and instructions on their event hosting and moderation tools.
Fear VR Events Not
The issue of trolls is felt across all of the VR metaverse, unfortunately. There have also been Zoombombing attacks by trolls in Zoom and a few other public online conferencing platforms. As soon as their tricks are figured out, they move onto another platform, and so on.
We’ve all had disruptive and troublemaker students, and this is no different. Many of us still hold VR as a precious, protected space, so this feels different. Luckily, these are rare situations. For most, VR continues to be a transcendent experience for many users.
Educators in VR continues to host dozens of events a month in AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, and other VR platforms. Come join us and ask us about hosting your own events and classes at the end of the event. You’ll find that social VR is safer than you think.
If you wish help supporting your event, consider hiring the Educators in VR production team for event management, moderation, and more. Our experienced team is here to help ensure your VR experience in education is safe and easy.