Image 1: A Collage of Web 2.0. Companies and Websites
Web 2.0. technologies, websites, and applications are focused on social engagement and commerce (Hertogh, Viaene, & Dedene, 2011). Hertogh, Viaene, and Dedene (2011) write that Web 2.0. servcies like the brands seen in Image 1 eventually became integrated into users’ daily lives (Hertogh, Viaene, & Dedene, 2011, para. 1). As investors, companies, and regulators became more aware of Web 2.0.’s influence on the economy and users’ behaviors, they realized the need to define their ends, ways, and means (Hertogh, Viaene, & Dedene, 2011). By defining their ends (or objectives), stakeholders recognized what new solutions and practices (ways and means) they would need to create in order to accomplish them. The metaverse is in the same situation as its developers and initial partners determine what they want it to be. Three significant objectives seen in recent literature are the protection of users’ human rights, the regulation of metaverse-based economies, and the improvement of the metaverse’s cybersecurity solutions.
Governance Issues within the Metaverse
Human Rights in a New Dimension
Image 2: A Digital Flier Representing its Authors’ Position on the Safety of Children on the Internet
The privacy and safety of metaverse users is a major issue. At the moment, there is no way to stop people from committing social and digital crimes with their avatars (Fernandez & Hui, 2022, Wang et al., 2022; Dwivedi et al., 2022). Dwivedi et al. (2022) write that malicious actors can create duplicate versions of their avatars that function as “digital twins” (Introduction section, para. 3). This makes it almost impossible to track the behaviors and intentions of users who want to harass their peers and test the limits of metaverse platforms’ cybersecurity.
Image 2 presents a viewpoint on the issues surrounding child safety on the internet. The image argues that completely censoring information or removing children’s access to the internet would deprive them of the information needed to function as citizens of the modern world. The image also suggests that parents should sit with children while they browse the internet instead of relying on national laws to do the monitoring for them (Oceanlane, n.d.). This solution is not a bad one, but it does not prevent the possibility of children being harassed while their parents are watching. In fact, it could heighten it. Dwivedi et al. (2022) write that avatars operated by perceived minors experienced abuse and harassment every seven minutes (Introduction section, para. 4). This means parents who follow the advice provided by the flier in Image 2 may still be unable to protect their children as they explore the metaverse. Unfortunately, this could mean that the only effective solution for them and their children is to avoid the metaverse altogether.
This issue must be governed with the creation of best practices and in-metaverse guidelines that function as laws. Dwivedi et al. (2020) write that users try to circumvent detection and accountability by creating malicious digital twins. Fernandez and Hui (2022) write that communities that grow too large will eventually produce an amount of comments and negative actions that will be too hard for certain cybersecurity moderators and individuals to handle on their own (p. 3). Metaverse providers and developers like Meta will need to create security checks and features that govern the overlying metaverse experience for everyone. In an interview, Mark Zuckerberg claimed that his company is not the only one who will build the metaverse over time. This means that Meta desires to build partnerships with the other companies who will eventually play a large part in the metaverse’s success. The partnerships created by Meta and other organizations will need to consider the safety of users as they develop new business ideas and safety features. If the private sector fails to create a viable system of governance, public sector agencies may need to step in and deliver their own solutions.
The Establishment of a New Economic Arena
Image 3: A Depiction of a Metaverse Avatar Roaming Around an Outdoor Shopping Center
The metaverse’s growth will create new shopping and commerce experiences for individuals and businesses (Newton, 2021; Ball, 2020). Newton (2021) writes that Meta (formerly known as Facebook) has already made major investments into changing the focus of its business model from social media to the metaverse. These investments include the construction of “a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences” that will provide a “convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space” (Newton, 2022, para. 1-3). Image 3 shows an example of how Meta could provide businesses, consumers, and developers a chance to participate in the new economic experience created by the metaverse.
The image shows advertisements, shops, lounges, and other mall-related objects that are similar to the landmarks seen in the real world. The economies created by businesses in the metaverse could be extensions of markets seen in the real world or new entirely new models of commerce in their own right. Ball (2020) writes that the metaverse will not be augmented reality versions of games like Fornite. Games like Fortnite already have microtransactions that take place in official stores and unofficial swaps between players that happen all the time (Ball, 2020). The metaverse is an entirely new entity that builds upon the foundation laid by games and communities like Fortnite, but is not a one-to-one remake of them.
Ball (2020) writes that the metaverse’s economy will have new works that produce a unique type of value seen by those who desire to purchase them. The rise of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) provides an example of how this would work in the future (Ball, 2020). NFTs have already received attention from legal stakeholders despite their relatively short time in the marketplace. Patel (2021) writes that NFTs have been associated with intellectual property law since the business associated with them relies on their perceived exclusivity. Busch (2022) writes that NFTs’ legal situations can become complicated since they do not always represent the complete ownership of an asset or piece of art. For example, some people believe NFTs will eventually be used to represent land deeds and car titles. However, NFTs have historically been known to provide ownership of blockchain tokens instead of copyrights or objects d’art (Busch, 2022, p. i).
Properly governing this issue would require the creation of laws and policies that directly associate NFT transactions with intellectual property law or some other school of thought. Defining which laws to use during NFT-related cases could help businesses in the metaverse learn the proper boundaries of their future operations. Likewise, creative individuals that want to build a career in the metaverse could learn how they would actually occur once they consult the relevant literature and professional knowledge.
The Rise of New Cybersecurity Threats
The metaverse uses new technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality to connect users to their experiences (Wang et al., 2022). Securing these technologies will require new practices and strategies to address old and longstanding risks. Fernandez and Hui (2022) write that eavesdropping attacks are common when traveling in the metaverse. Fernandez and Hui also cite augmented reality hardware’s ability to collect gaze data as a threat cybersecurity professionals and researchers must remain aware of as well (Fernandez & Hui, 2022, p. 2). This is because gaze data can be abused by malicious users who forcefully gain information about victims’ preferences and behaviors without their consent. Solving this governance issue would require the creation of targeted rules and new best practices that acknowledge the bad intentions of some metaverse denizens.
Wang et al. (2022) write that physical cybersecurity dangers persist in and around the metaverse as well. These physical dangers are connected with human users’ surroundings and ability to protect their hardware (Wang et al., 2022, p. 2). Governing the metaverse’s physical cybersecurity risks will be a challenge since hardware and companies cannot control users’ movements and behaviors inside their homes. Fernandez and Hui (2022) suggest governors use configurable options to help potential victims customize their metaverse experiences and protect themselves from physical hazards inside their home. This would prevent people from hurting themselves while wandering. However, the use of personalized settings may not protect benevolent users from the threats mentioned in Dwivedi et al.’s (2022) article.
Furthermore, this video support the above argument and explained more in details by visualizing what I discussed (cnaconnect2, 2021).
Web 2.0’s introduction of social media and networking created a foundation for what the metaverse would become. As it continues to grow, the metaverse will become a socially-minded platform that allows individuals to interact with the digital versions of their favorite brands, events, and companies. Governing the metaverse will involve focusing on the safety and protection of well-intentioned users. Currently, there are no laws that directly govern metaverse transactions or punish malicious actors who use digital twins to attack their peers’ avatars. The companies who develop the metaverse should be held accountable and asked to create the appropriate safeguards. If private firms and individuals fail to develop these solutions, government-led security agencies may need to reinforce the metaverse themselves.
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