Ethics and Regulations Within the Metaverse
In 2020, Netflix released a documentary called The Social Dilemma, which explored some of the issues that internet users of this generation have experienced. In a world where social media platforms and Big Tech have developed and nurtured explosive levels of growth, it has become apparent that the methods used to achieve it are extremely predatory of their user base.
Now, as we begin to explore the expanse of the Metaverse and Web 3.0, and the adoption of Metaverse technologies, language, and usage increases, it is up to us as citizens of this new online experience to make changes. We must promote the conversation around the ethics and regulations of a Metaverse that benefits all its users, not merely the corporations that aim to control it.
Determining the ethical practices and required regulations of the Metaverse should be the first priority of users and companies looking to establish themselves in the Metaverse. Partnerships should be formed between all sectors, media, industry, law enforcement, government agencies, and individuals, with the aim of thorough top-to-bottom inclusivity. All involved must look to implement products and services to maintain standards and regulations, particularly important are proactive detection tools, moderation tools, and tools for user reporting. Finally, there need to be clear processes; how do we enforce these regulations, what level of audits should there be, how regularly etc etc.
Any Metaverse discussions should aim to include genuinely diverse participants in order to ensure that all aspects and angles are appropriately (and equally) considered. As an example of this, Open Meta’s Discord server contains several channels for discourse on topics central to how an open Metaverse will work. One such channel is The House of Human Ethics (be sure to react with the 🧭 icon once you join the server). Here, members can discuss, deliberate, and share thoughts and resources on how best to implement the checks and balances required for a user-regulated Metaverse experience. The conversation has already been flowing, and many intriguing and important viewpoints have been shared.
Internet users have been burned from the social media boom. We’ve seen fake news run riot and been concerned when topics of conversation with friends then show up in ‘coincidental’ targeted advertisements. Europeans have seen the implementation of GDPR rules and regulations, and there are lessons to be learned from all of these collective experiences. How we put those lessons into practice is up to us. Mark Zuckerberg has frequently stated that his philosophy is to ‘move fast and break things.’ But instead of adopting this practice, we need to move slowly, with purpose, ensuring that we establish structures that last.
Privacy and Trust
Two central pillars that need to be discussed, built, and maintained are privacy and trust. Without those core principles, the hypothetical promise of a Metaverse utopia is vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. By fighting for and upholding a user-defined and user-controlled identity, we keep users’ privacy (and rights to that privacy) in their own hands. To maintain this, Metaverse citizens need to actively hold trailblazing companies accountable.
That accountability needs to be absolute. There can be no scapegoats, no shifting of the blame, no illusion. The Metaverse ultimately aims to be trustless, meaning that the processes in place do not require blind faith, but can be relied upon to be exactly what they claim to be. For us to actually get to that stage, accountability is key and in allowing that to occur, those in leadership will create an organic bond of trust between themselves, their corporations, and the inhabitants of the Metaverse. This type of organic trust empowers users with confidence, which will in turn further the growth of Metaverse adoption and exploration.
Content and Protection
When it comes to the content that will be available in the Metaverse, we must aim to avoid a repeat of the current access ‘restrictions’ that are in place for Web 2.0. The current methods are too reliant on a governing body (third-party verification systems) or ineffective (self-imposed regulation). The effective implementation of self-sovereign identity will be key to correcting this, as well as other issues. By providing a secure proof-of-identity interface that is trustless and frictionless, Web 3.0 can be a safer place for users of all ages. Privacy and protection must be by design, not baked in as an afterthought.
Setting an ethical benchmark for regulation is the responsibility of all who want to see those standards upheld. We have a unique opportunity to pave the way for our online future and that of generations to come. The Metaverse is here — now is the time for us to set it on the right path.
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