A new lawsuit accuses Roblox of lying and saying that the popular gaming platform is “safe and appropriate” for children. The complaint made recently by several parents said some games on Roblox exposed their underage kids to explicit sexual content.
In a complaint filed in the San Diego Superior Court earlier this month, the families claimed that “children using Roblox have encountered nude avatars, avatars engaging in intercourse, and use of sex toys, as well as virtual strip clubs.”
Roblox ‘more harmful’ than TikTok
Parents accuse Roblox of “intentional and negligent misrepresentation.” They alleged that the company uses deception to entice parents into spending thousands of dollars on the site via unclear pricing and the kids’ ability to make purchases using the in-game currency Roblux.
Roblox specifically misleads parents about the efficacy of its filtering technologies and its ability to make the site safe and appropriate for children, the families say.
“There’s a misperception that [the] Roblox [metaverse] is safe; the brand has a bit of a halo around it due to the company falsely advertising itself that way to parents,” said Alexandra Walsh of Walsh Law, a lawyer for the families who filed the complaint.
“Parents who would never let their kids use TikTok don’t think twice about letting them use Roblox, even though what they encounter on Roblox can be far more harmful.”
Anne Andrews of Andrews & Thornton, the second law firm jointly representing the parents, added: “Roblox claims it goes ‘above and beyond’ to keep kids safe, but the systems that monitor lewd behavior often fail.”
Andrews alleges that Roblox, which has 66 million users a day, “makes it nearly impossible for parents to monitor, track, and quantify where and how children spend their money.”
Founded in 2004 by David Baszucki and Erik Cassel, Roblox is an online gaming outfit that allows players to create their own games within it and to play games created by other users. The game enjoys a cult following among teenagers and children under 17, surveys say.
Roblox issued a statement on Nov. 16 denying the allegations. “We dispute the allegations and will respond in court. Roblox is committed to providing a positive and safe experience for people of all ages,” the company said, Dexerto reported.
“We have an expert team of thousands of people dedicated to moderation and safety on Roblox 24/7, and we act swiftly to block inappropriate content or behavior when detected, including sexual content that violates our Community Standards.”
What are parents complaining about?
Families involved in the lawsuit leveled a number of allegations against Roblox. One parent reportedly set up her then-seven-year-old son with a Roblox account in 2021 and spent over $4,000 on the platform, convinced that Roblox was a “safe environment for her child.”
The parent, identified only as KM, “discovered that multiple users sent her child abusive and profane messages directly through the Roblox messaging service.” One user asked her son to perform virtual oral sex on his avatar in the game, the suit said.
And yet, “another user asked her son to show them his genitals, and another called him a malicious racial slur.” Another parent said their 12-year-old daughter was being groomed secretly by an old female Roblox user who lied that she was the same age as the minor.
This second parent spent up to $5,000 on the site “with the belief that the platform was a safe environment for his children to learn, play, and develop their expressive creativity for 1-2 hours per day, on average.”
A third parent has a daughter who started using Roblox in 2019 when she was only 9. After monitoring her daughter’s account by linking it to her own, the parent found links sent directly to her daughter’s account from several users that redirected to external pornography sites.
This is the second lawsuit faced by Roblox in recent months, after a northern California complaint accused the company of illegally facilitating child gambling using its in-game purchases.
In a recent interview, Roblox CEO David Baszucki revealed plans to expand the site into a metaverse used by more than one billion people every day, underpinned by virtual dating. He wants Roblox to grow beyond being just a gaming platform for kids to include people of all ages doing all kinds of things.
What is Roblox?
Roblox refers to players on the site as developers, which is one of the things that has made it popular with users. The ‘developers’ earn Roblux from other players. In the 12 months ending June 2023, Roblox creators earned around $680 million, making it one of the biggest virtual economies, according to the company.
The game is popular with children under 17, according to some surveys. In 2020, Bloomberg reported that 66% of all children in the U.S. between the ages of 9 and 12 played the game. In the UK, a survey of 400,000 kids revealed that 67% played the game the same year.
While Roblox has won praise for introducing children to creative designs at an early age, it has also come under increasing regulatory scrutiny, the BBC reports. Since the pandemic, the number of children calling for help with complaints about Roblox has risen by 500%, it said.