A top European Commission official stated on Friday that the European Union must consider issues such as non-discrimination, user safety, and data privacy when contemplating how to regulate the metaverse.
The EU aims to avoid repeating the blunders it claims it made with internet policy in the past. As a result, the EU’s executive arm is preparing to release its strategy on virtual worlds in a policy document due in May.
The director of data at the European Commission’s digital department, DG Connect, Yvo Volman, expressed concerns about the potential pitfalls that could arise in the virtual world if it is not appropriately regulated. At an event hosted by the Commission in Brussels, Volman stressed the importance of ensuring that virtual world developments are consistent with European values.
“We want to ensure that the developments that we see in virtual worlds are fully in line with our European values from the outset – values such as inclusion, respect of privacy, non-discrimination, and equality.”Yvo Volman – Director of Data, DG Connect
He added, “We need to make sure that people feel safe in virtual worlds, as safe as they do in the real world or actually perhaps even safer. We need to make sure that people have the right skills and tools to protect their assets in virtual worlds – their data.”
Volman emphasized the need to “get it right from the start” and avoid repeating previous mistakes made with the internet.
In recent years, the EU has established sweeping regulations to prevent major companies like Google and Amazon from dominating the online space. The Commission’s powerful antitrust department officials have also expressed concerns that similar trends may emerge in Web3, such as from Facebook, which has rebranded itself as Meta Platforms in its pursuit of creating its virtual-reality space.
While the metaverse provides potential advantages such as online surgery or education, it must address the downsides as well, according to Volman.
The Need for Virtual World Regulation
Volman’s remarks underscore the need for policymakers to examine the potential dangers posed by the metaverse’s current state of disarray.
The virtual world has grown increasingly popular, thanks in part to the pandemic’s impact on the physical world, causing people to seek out online alternatives. The metaverse represents a vast universe of online spaces, including virtual reality and augmented reality, that allow people to interact with one another in real-time, participate in games, or experience immersive content.
However, the lack of regulation and centralization has resulted in a virtual world full of threats, ranging from cyberbullying to harassment and theft. Thus, the EU is keen to establish regulations that will ensure the metaverse provides a safe and secure environment for its users.
The Importance of Non-Discrimination in Virtual Worlds
The metaverse’s potential to replicate societal injustices has sparked growing concern among policymakers, activists, and scholars. While the virtual world is often perceived as a space where individuals can be free to express themselves without fear of social stigma, discrimination, and other problems that exist in the real world, the opposite is true.
Virtual worlds have been known to reproduce many real-world inequalities, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other forms of discrimination.
As a result, it is critical that policymakers consider non-discrimination measures when establishing regulations for the metaverse. The EU’s commitment to ensuring that its virtual world policies align with European values of inclusion, respect of privacy, non-discrimination, and equality is a step in the right direction.
Non-discrimination, Safety, and Data Controls in the Metaverse
The European Commission is planning to release a policy document on virtual worlds in May, but it needs to take into account several key issues, including non-discrimination, user safety, and data privacy, according to a senior official from the Commission. The bloc wants to avoid past mistakes in internet policy and ensure that the metaverse aligns with European values such as inclusion, privacy, non-discrimination, and equality.
Yvo Volman, director of data at the European Commission’s digital department, DG Connect, emphasized the importance of safety in the metaverse, stating that people should feel just as safe in virtual worlds as they do in the real world or perhaps even safer. He also noted the need to ensure that people have the right skills and tools to protect their data and other assets in the metaverse.
The Importance of Getting it Right
Volman stressed the importance of getting the regulation of the metaverse right from the outset, stating that the EU needs to avoid the mistakes it made with the advent of the internet. The EU has already taken steps to regulate the online space and prevent dominant players such as Google and Amazon from controlling it. However, officials from the Commission’s antitrust department have expressed concerns that similar things could occur in Web3, particularly with the rise of Meta Platforms, formerly known as Facebook, which is seeking to create its own online virtual reality space.
While Volman acknowledged the potential benefits of the metaverse, such as online education or surgery, he also emphasized the need to address its downsides, particularly those related to discrimination, safety, and data privacy.
As the metaverse continues to grow and evolve, policymakers must ensure that it aligns with their values and priorities, particularly those related to non-discrimination, safety, and data privacy. The European Commission’s forthcoming policy document on virtual worlds will be a critical step in this process, and it is essential that it gets things right from the outset to avoid repeating past mistakes.