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How Apple can get its house in order ahead of the Apple Vision Pro launch

November 29, 2023 | VR and Metaverse Moderation

In the world of gaming, the boundaries between the real and the virtual are becoming increasingly porous. Long gone are the 2D days of Donkey Kong or the original Super Mario Brothers. Incredibly detailed, immersive landscapes are the new norm, and the continued development of VR gaming stands to make our experiences even more personal and realistic. At the forefront of this evolution is Apple with its upcoming Vision Pro VR headset. Priced at a hefty $3,499 and flaunting features like dual 4K displays, gesture tracking, and an M2 chip, the Vision Pro is poised to mark Apple’s grand debut into the VR/AR space​. Coming on the heels of the Meta Quest 3, the buzz surrounding the Vision Pro’s launch is palpable, making it one of the most highly anticipated gaming and mixed-reality experiences in recent years.

However, as content moderators at the forefront of this technology, we know that virtual gaming environments introduce new avenues for digital misconduct. The journey of Oculus, now Meta, with its Quest VR headsets, serves as a reminder that the immersive nature of these platforms presents new risks. As we outlined in our guide on content moderation in virtual reality, the enhanced realism and immersive nature of VR not only intensify the game experience but also the impact of abuse within these spaces.

How Apple can get its house in order ahead of the Apple Vision Pro launch

While Apple is rightly celebrating the engineering marvel that is the Vision Pro, it should at the same time be thinking about the systems and tools it needs to keep its platform secure from the clutches of the bad actors who will seek out and exploit any possible weakness. The allure of the Vision Pro for many lies in its ability to transform any room into a personal theater and to serve as a gateway to uncharted virtual territories​. Yet, this allure can quickly morph into a nightmare if left unsupervised.

As the clock ticks down to the Vision Pro launch, we at WebPurify believe Apple should consider taking proactive content moderation measures based on the lessons we’ve learned in the corridors of the Metaverse. You can have an extraordinary piece of technology with the potential to redefine mixed reality experiences and set new benchmarks in virtual interaction, but unless you also build this on a strong foundation of trust and safety, it can all go wrong.

As content moderation pioneers who championed community guidelines since the dawn of User-generated Content (UGC), we’ve laid out below our own ‘pro vision’ for how Apple can start its path into virtual reality on the right foot and ensure the safety of its users.

Step 1: Proactive Moderation

The cornerstone of ensuring a safe user journey in the mixed-reality space lies in proactive moderation. According to Alexandra Popken, VP of Trust & Safety at WebPurify, the immersive nature of mixed-reality can amplify the impact of harmful content on users. She emphasizes the need for Apple to bolster its proactive app review process, ensuring adherence to App Store Review Guidelines to help thwart the entry of harmful and illegal content.

“This means ensuring that AI and human moderation can be leveraged upfront to prevent problematic apps from being accepted, and reactively in the event that such apps may slip through the cracks,” Alex says. “A user reporting mechanism will also be an important signal and safety net.”

Step 2: User Education

An informed user is a safe user. It is imperative for Apple to educate both developers and users about what constitutes acceptable use within the mixed-reality ecosystem of the Vision Pro. By fostering awareness of the principles and policies that promote a safe user experience, Apple can cultivate a respectful and secure community.

Step 3: Transparent Policies

Absolute clarity in content guidelines and moderation policies will be the beacon that guides user interaction within the Vision Pro platform. “The policies implemented for developers and users will be important guideposts that signal what acceptable content and conduct looks like, and that promote fairness and consistency in the event Apple needs to enforce those policies,” Alex notes. “Transparency is the key here – ensuring those using and integrating with this product understand acceptable use.”

Step 4: Collaboration with Experienced Moderation Providers

The path to effective content moderation lies in collaboration with seasoned moderation providers like WebPurify. Such partnerships offer round-the-clock moderation and leverage industry learnings from similar moderation efforts. Alex points out that by engaging vendor partners in the early stages of a platform’s development, you not only ensure a robust moderation framework from the beginning but avoid some of the growing pains that other platforms experience.

Step 5: Innovative Moderation Technologies

The scale and complexity of content within the Apple Vision Pro ecosystem necessitates innovative moderation technologies. “AI is certainly beneficial for content moderation at scale, especially when combined with human moderation for more complex cases that require contextual understanding,” Alex explains. “What’s challenging with using AI for mixed-reality is that it’s an immersive, spatial experience that is different and more challenging to moderate than traditional text, images, and video formats.”

Therefore, given the challenges posed by the spatial and immersive nature of mixed-reality, AI, coupled with human moderation, can be instrumental in managing content moderation at scale.

Step 6: Feedback Loops & Accessible Reporting

The importance of feedback mechanisms in refining moderation practices and enhancing user satisfaction cannot be overstated. Alex says, “Feedback mechanisms are incredibly important… particularly so for a new product or platform that is inevitably going to need to be iterated upon. Learning from one’s core consumer, and building a product that appeals to them and ensures their safety, is a responsible and smart business practice.”

Designing intuitive reporting and appeal systems is fundamental for real-time user feedback. “Safety by design is a concept that promotes integrating safety mechanisms into product design from the outset, beginning at the conception stage and before a product is released to consumers,” Alex says. “For the Apple Vision Pro, this should absolutely include ways in which users can send real-time reports and feedback to Apple to keep the product safer.”

Step 7: Regulatory Compliance

Navigating the complex global digital content regulatory landscape is crucial for platforms like Apple Vision Pro. Establishing clear content policies and enforcement measures that align with global regulations will not only build trust with users but also stave off legal issues on multiple fronts.

As well as establishing clear content policies and enforcement measures that align with these regulations, Alex says it’s imperative that platforms stay abreast of the changing legal landscape, meet with external regulators and experts, and integrate appropriate safeguards into their product and processes to ensure continued compliance. By working closely with vendor partners or trust and safety consultants who are actively keeping themselves informed of new regulations, you can ensure you are always in compliance with current law.

Step 8: Community Building

Fostering a positive community culture is about being preventative rather than reactive. Encouraging positive interactions through in-app tooltips or rewards for constructive community contributions can go a long way in discouraging misuse.

Step 9: Continuous Improvement

This technology is ever-evolving, and so should the moderation practices of brands in this space. Continuous monitoring and analysis of risk exposure areas, coupled with external consultations with those who have knowledge and experience outside one’s user base, can help platforms stay ahead of the curve in ensuring user safety.

“We pride ourselves on our consultative approach and being a trusted ally to the hundreds of online platforms that rely upon us to keep their ecosystems healthy,” Alex says. “WebPurify has extensive experience moderating cutting-edge technologies like the metaverse and generative AI, and partnering with our clients on creative ways of leveraging AI and human review to keep users safe.”

Through proactive moderation, user education, transparent policies, and collaborative efforts with experienced moderation providers, Apple can navigate the mixed-reality terrain with a compass of safety and assurance, ensuring a seamless and secure user journey into new mixed realities.