No Hiding From UK Regulators in The Metaverse



New regulations in the United Kingdom are taking aim at the Metaverse and the tech giants behind various proposed offerings, but how will decentralized ecosystems fare?

An ‘Online Safety Bill’ has been drafted by the British government to prevent illegal content and protect users from “harmful material.” However, Metaverse projects will also be subject to the bill and stringent regulation according to a Feb 7 Financial Times report.

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The primary concern among policymakers and regulators is Facebook, which has now rebranded to Meta in order to pursue its Metaverse ambitions.

Experts working on the bill have expressed concern over Meta and its plans to create an online virtual world. Professor of Internet Law Lorna Woods and William Perrin, Trustee at Carnegie U.K., said that “technology companies can’t use the metaverse to escape regulation,” before adding:

“The feeling is that Meta has moved the debate on to a new type of service that avoids regulation. But that isn’t the case at all in our view. The Online Safety regime applies.” 

Meta has claimed that safety and privacy will be an integral part of its Metaverse designs having already committed $50 million into researching it. However, judging by the firm allowing fake news, scams, and harmful content dissemination on its social media platform Facebook, those words hold little weight.

In an annual report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last week, Meta stated that new laws and regulations regarding privacy and e-commerce “may delay or impede the development of our products and services, increase our operating costs, require significant management time and attention, or otherwise harm our business”.

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Several high profile tech companies such as Microsoft, Nvidia, Disney, and Apple have expressed Metaverse motivations but Meta (Facebook) still appears to be the largest threat due to its previous track record regarding user privacy and safety online.

Decentralized connundrum

The regulation of decentralized blockchain-based Metaverses such as Decentraland, Axie Infinity, and The Sandbox are more complicated as there is no corporation or CEO behind many of them.

Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) run many of today’s emerging Metaverse projects and regulators will have a tough time balancing online safety rules with a complete crackdown.

These Metaverse ecosystems are largely a conglomeration of gaming, social media, and digital finance and so need their own set of tailored guidelines rather than the heavy-handed approach that lawmakers largely ignorant of the underlying tech tend to prefer.

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