Without Regulation, the Metaverse Will Be Like Social Media on Steroids

Without Regulation, the Metaverse Will Be Like Social Media on Steroids
Mark Zuckerberg—then the CEO of Facebook, which has since been renamed Meta—delivers a speech about the metaverse during a virtual event, Oct. 28, 2021 (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

“Society cannot exist without Law,” the 19th-century U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph P. Bradley famously declared. Aristotle similarly remarked, “Law is order, and good law is good order.” Both men would have been horrified at the prospect of a new, virtual society that potentially lies outside the scope of any system of law, save for contractual provisions imposed by its commercially motivated, all-seeing creator.

Nonetheless, in a recent survey, only 36 percent of Americans said that government-enacted regulations would be an important factor in their decision over whether or not to use the metaverse. Life in a virtual reality or augmented reality world is enticing, whatever the fine print.

Yet the metaverse—as the various prototypes of immersive, interactive, multi-user virtual reality, or VR, and augmented reality, or AR, platforms are known—raises a host of regulatory challenges, as every concern about the harms caused by social media is magnified. These include, first and foremost, concerns about cybercrime and national security. There is huge scope for online fraud, theft and misuse of personal data. Terrorists and traffickers could also stalk the metaverse, finding new ways to identify, influence and train potential recruits.

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