There’s a special place in Hell for people who think it’s funny to lớn 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 khổng lồ have customized animations appear. This allowed two male avatars lớn 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 lớn the victyên ổn and its community, & says it has determined how the hacker was able lớn infiltrate its system so it can prsự kiện 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 and 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 to warn others.

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

At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My sweet và innocent daughter’s avatar was being VIOLENTLY GANG-RAPED ON A PLAYGROUND by two males. A female obVPS approached them và proceeded khổng lồ jump on her body 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 shoông chồng, disgust, and guilt that I am feeling right now, but I’m trying to put those feelings aside so I can get this warning out khổng lồ others as soon as possible. Thankfully, I was able lớn 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 khổng lồ shield my daughter from seeing the entire interaction, I am shuddering lớn think of what kind of damage this image could have on her psyđậy, as well as any other child that could potentially be exposed khổng lồ this.

Roblox has since issued a statement about the attack:

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

The incident involved one bad actor that was able khổng lồ subvert our protective systems và exploit one instance of a game running on a single server. We have zero tolerance for this behavior & we took immediate action lớn identify how this individual created the offending action & put safeguards in place khổng lồ prevent it from happening again. In addition, the offender was identified & permanently banned from the platform. Our work on safety is never-ending và we are committed to lớn ensuring that one individual does not get in the way of the millions of children who come to Roblox lớn 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 khổng lồ $150 million to lớn 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 lớn guard against bad behavior, including a nội dung filter and a system that has moderators reviewing images, đoạn Clip & audio files before they’re uploaded to Roblox’s site. It also offers parental controls that let parents decide who can chat with their kids, or the ability to turn chat off. And parents can restrict kids under 13 from accessing anything but a curated danh sách 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 been exploited in a similar way.

Since the incident, Roblox had its developers remove sầu all the other potentially vulnerable games & ask their creators to lớn move sầu them over lớn the newer, more fortified system. Most have sầu done so, và those who have not will not see their games allowed back online until that occurs. The games that are online now are not vulnerable lớn 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 lớn others about the safeguards parents can use khổng lồ 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 hachồng lượt thích this.

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

It’s long past time for there to lớn 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 platsize company out there is struggling with the same thing,” says Tangươi Bhaumik, head of sale and community safety at Roblox.

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

“The problem is super complex, & 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 card, which would remain uncharged unless kids broke the rules.

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

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

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