Facebook transformed its brand name to Meta in October, symbolizing its full embrace of the metaverse’s future.
Many critics, such as whistleblower Frances Haugen, believed the move was merely a tactical diversion from the company’s profit-driven decision-making, which has resulted in numerous negative consequences. If left unregulated, Facebook’s new immersive platform might compound the company’s existing security issues like problems of Social Media.
Xingyu Tiffany Wang expresses concern in the same way. Wang is the founder of the think tank OASIS Consortium and the chief strategy and marketing officer at AI business Spectrum Labs.
The OASIS Consortium, which was created last year, brings together highly invested leaders in the metaverse, such as Roblox, Riot Games, and Wildlife Studios, to solve safety and privacy issues in Web 3.
Wang believes in the metaverse’s power and the benefits of virtual worlds, but she also recognizes the dangers they might cause if left unchecked.
She tells me, “You may conceive of the Jan. 6 insurgency as a result of not having safety guardrails 15 years ago.”
“Either the impact will be considerably greater this time in the metaverse, or the time to get to that disastrous moment will be much quicker.”
However, Wang’s approach is to engage with metaverse architects to self-regulate and prioritize safety in a way that most social media platforms do not. The consortium released its first-ever Safety Standards a few weeks ago, which it believes will serve as a model for how metaverse platforms approach safety guidelines in the future. “There is no consensus or definition of excellent,” Wang says, “and most platforms I spoke with don’t have a playbook on how to achieve this.” “That isn’t even taking into account the new platforms. There is a significant gap in core governance issues, which is not a technological issue.”
The guidelines also allow OASIS to oversee a platform grading system, similar to how buildings are evaluated for energy efficiency. Businesses can be recognized as B Corporations, indicating a commitment to social responsibility.
Here are some of the main concerns and possible solutions that influenced the development of the Metaverse safety guidelines.
In the metaverse, current internet safety issues could become enormously worse.
Some of the most prominent metaverse theorists, Matthew Ball, have identified a few key characteristics of the metaverse.
Including that it will be immersive (you enter a 3D internet rather than viewing it through a screen)
- Continuous (platforms never pause or resent, and you interact with them and their dwellers in real-time)
Adaptable (you will be able to transfer your digital identity and goods across distinct platforms).
While the creators of the metaverse believe that each of these characteristics will benefit users, Wang claims that they also represent substantial concerns. “Any toxicity’s impact is amplified by immersion.
Adoption of complex, restrictive safety regulations
Safety and privacy have long been placeholders in the tech world, with income, expansion, and innovation taking precedence.
For example, “Move quickly and shatter things” was one of Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite mottos for a long time.
The Facebook Papers—leaked internal reports—showed that Facebook bottlenecked the fight against misinformation, allowing manipulation and misinformation to flourish.
Because of the brutal battle they face in gaining new customers and existing mistrust surrounding the industry, Wang believes this profit approach for metaverse platforms will be significantly less successful.
“Users will not come if they hear it’s noxious,” she adds, “if platforms are plagued by safety and privacy problems from the start. You’ll have more reasons for regulators to intervene if it gets so physically harmful.”
The same problem happened recently on Meta’s Horizon Worlds Metaverse. A woman was groped by 3-4 guys who tried to rape her. To counter that issue from happening again in the future, Meta implemented a new feature called ‘Personal Boundaries.’
As a result, the metaverse’s survival depends on its ability to stay secure.
Despite the publication of the Facebook Papers and a barrage of negative attention, Meta’s virtual reality software Oculus was the top downloaded app in the United States on Christmas Day.
Many of the most popular metaverse and gaming platforms, such as Decentraland, Fortnite, and Twitch, have yet to commit to following the guidelines.
Metaverse will access more personal data.
For their own benefit, digital corporations already collect massive amounts of our data.
This dynamic “provides the basis for unseen discrimination; it is utilized to affect our decisions, both our buying habits and our intellectual habits,” as journalist Franklin Foer argues in World Without Mind.
In a 3D world, data gathering could be even more harmful.
Virtual platforms may hypothetically follow all of a user’s activities and purchases throughout virtual worlds if they have high-quality cameras and microphones in their rooms.
“A platform’s ability to harvest PII, or personally identifiable information, is mind-boggling,” Wang says.
“It’s a problem that keeps me awake at night.”
Knowing all this, the perfect metaverse will take some to counter all these problems. Whether for good or bad, we are heading the metaverse way, but only time can show us precise results.