Written by Tambiama Madiega, Polona Car and Maria Niestadt with Louise Van de Pol.
One of the most talked about concepts in modern technology, the metaverse can be described as an immersive and constant virtual 3D world where people interact by means of an avatar to carry out a wide range of activities. Such activities can range from leisure and gaming to professional and commercial interactions, financial transactions or even health interventions such as surgery. While the exact scope and impact of the metaverse on society and on the economy is still unknown, it can already be seen that the metaverse will open up a range of opportunities but also a number of risks in a variety of policy areas.
Major tech companies are scaling up their metaverse activities, including through mergers and acquisitions. This has given impetus to a debate on how merger regulations and antitrust law should apply. Business in the metaverse is expected to be underpinned largely by cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens, raising issues of ownership, misuse, interoperability and portability. Furthermore, the huge volume of data used in the metaverse raises a number of data protection and cybersecurity issues (e.g. how to collect user consent or protect avatars against identity theft).
There is considerable scope for a wide range of illegal and harmful behaviours and practices in the metaverse environment. This makes it essential to consider how to attribute responsibility, inter alia, for fighting illegal and harmful practices and misleading advertising practices, and for protecting intellectual property rights. Moreover, digital immersion in the metaverse can have severe negative impacts on health, especially for vulnerable groups, such as minors, who may require special protection. Finally, the accessibility and inclusiveness of the metaverse remain areas where progress has still to be made in order to create an environment of equal opportunities.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Metaverse: Opportunities, risks and policy implications‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.