A North Carolina mom is warning other parents after her 7-year-old daughter's online video game avatar was shown being "violently" sexually violated.
Amber Petersen uploaded disturbing screenshots of the "Roblox" game incident, showing two male characters raping the female simultaneously. Toward the end, another female character interferes and stops it, the mom said in a Facebook post.
"I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My sweet and innocent daughter’s avatar was being VIOLENTLY GANG-RAPED ON A PLAYGROUND," Petersen wrote.
According to the company website, Roblox is an "immersive, user-generated" game for "kids of all ages."
For the sake of parent readers and their kids, All the Moms is not showing the graphic images in this story. They can be found by clicking the Facebook post above.
When parental controls fail
Petersen said Roblox has privacy settings that are supposed to prevent outside invitations or conversations.
"There are also 24-hour moderators that are hired to block any potentially inappropriate content," she wrote. "When my husband and I decided to allow our daughter to play this game, we adjusted the security settings to maximum privacy. Or at least we THOUGHT we did..."
Roblox at 'forefront of community safety'
Roblox's site features a "Parents" tab where it boasts its proactive safety measures. It says it's a member of the "kidSAFE Seal Program, which has been approved by the Federal Trade Commission as an authorized safe harbor under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)."
The program says explicitly that it does "NOT assign ratings to the 'quality' or 'age-appropriateness' of the language, images, videos, or other content that you may see on a kidSAFE member product."
However, it includes in its list of requirements that members follow "basic safety rules," with one of the bullet points including "age-appropriate content":
- "Safety measures for chat, community, and social features
- Rules and educational info about online safety
- Procedures for handling safety issues and complaints
- Parental controls over child’s account
- Age-appropriate content, advertising, and marketing"
What is COPPA?
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act "prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in connection with the collection, use, and/or disclosure of personal information from and about children on the Internet"
There are three requirements to become certified in the FTC's safe harbor program:
1. The programs have to implement "substantially similar requirements" that provide children "the same or greater protections" as those in the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.
2. The programs MUST have an "effective" way to independently assess its participants (which would be Roblox, for example). This is supposed to be done at least once a year.
3. The program must implement "disciplinary actions for noncompliance by safe harbor participants."
According to the kidSAFE's application to the FTC, its participants who break rules could face the following consequences:
- Increased membership fee
- "Require compensation or other redress to consumers"
- Membership termination without refund
- Temporary or permanent removal of the kidSAFE+ seal from violator's site
- "Require anonymous payments to the United State Treasury Department"
Has kidSAFE/Roblox done anything?
All the Moms has reached out to Roblox, kidSAFE and the FTC for comment. KidSAFE did not respond to request for comment.
A Roblox representative sent the following statement:
“We were outraged to learn that Roblox's community policies and Rules of Conduct were subverted. We have identified how this bad actor created the offending action and are putting additional safeguards in place to reduce the possibility of this happening again in the future. The offender was identified and has been permanently banned from the platform and we have suspended the game. We have zero tolerance for this behavior.
In addition, we have spoken with the mother who posted on Facebook about her daughter’s experience and are grateful for her willingness to work with us to educate parents about online safety in the digital world. Our work in ensuring the highest level of safety on Roblox remains our top priority.”
Amber Petersen told All the Moms she had a "very thoughtful conversation" with Roblox's head of marketing:
"They really do seem to care deeply about wanting to fix this problem and are willing to work with my suggestions," Petersen wrote in a message.
A member with the FTC who spoke to All the Moms said the FTC is not allowed to comment on whether there are or are not investigations occurring.
FTC-certified safe harbor organizations are required to submit a yearly report to the FTC on the status of its participants or members, and if there were any disciplinary actions taken.
It is unclear at the moment if any disciplinary action has been taken against Roblox or kidSAFE.
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