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In recent weeks I have discussed the topic of the Metaverse post-FaceBook’s announcement, and I have heard mixed responses in AltspaceVR on the subject. Generally, I am excited to see VR grow into new avenues. Part of me is excited at the thought of VR being more integrated with our lives; being backed by a billion-dollar company that is investing money to make this possible is, in some aspects, a good thing.

However, as this Vice News story reveals, there are some barriers that FaceBook/Meta should fix and take accountability for before they dive into the Metaverse as there would be an equal social responsibility for the welfare of users in VR.

When you consider the track record and recent press surrounding FaceBook’s current name and brand change to Meta after recent brad press, it makes you wonder if FaceBook is changing from a web to a VR platform as an attempt to jump ship. This is an opportunity to downplay future responsibilities with the argument that it’s not real life; therefore, we aren’t responsible etc.

What could FaceBook’s Metaverse could look like in terms of future social issues?

It’s important to draw attention to one point that the responsibility of the Metaverse does not solely rely on FaceBook. AltspaceVR/Microsoft also shares those responsibilities, and managing the social welfare of the platform users is something where Microsoft has down nicely into a certain level. One of the challenges AltspaceVR have had to overcome recently is copyright issues of other users’ content. There is also concern on VR platforms of people broadcasting and sharing music, TV and music that may breach copyright laws, but VR isn’t regulated yet specifically. This means that in many jurisdictions around the world, there aren’t any laws that mandate users’ rights on a platform.

One challenge that faces Oculus Quest 2 users is that if they are banned from FaceBook, they cannot use their headset, which would be a catastrophic outcome for users. Especially if the Covid pandemic continues and we adapt to rely on VR to remain connected with people around us, including attending virtual workplace meetings. This could impact a person’s ability to work and also manage their social wellbeing without being connected. Sure, people do the wrong thing but more and more people are facing social media bans for minor infringements subject to the mercy of the appeal team and moderators.

Future considerations for the Metaverse

FaceBook should consider changing its policy to allow use on Oculus headsets and allow platform owners to decide if a user is banned. This creates a separation of powers from FaceBook & Meta and gives platforms like AltspaceVR the right to block a user’s headset.

User’s privacy is at the top of the agenda of concern as the added possible data sets that could be recorded would surpass any that any web tracking technology is capable of. It may be feasible for headsets in the future to do things such as read our emotions and track eye movement. A feature such as eye-tracking is added it may sound like a cool feature but when it’s merged with AI it could mean that companies can know when you look or not look at an advertisement, or object, or choose to interact with a particular person or not. The possibility of stats being recorded from new data points never before observed will lead to more privacy concerns. Essentially nothing would or could be off limits in being recorded potentially.