Governing the Metaverse
If the Metaverse is to follow Web 2.0, how should it be governed?
The Metaverse will fundamentally alter how people interact with the web. Nonetheless, little is understood, and significant issues, such as translating legal principles from the current world to the virtual world, have not been studied. The purpose of this blog is to explain how the Metaverse should be governed.
(Source: ipopba/Adobe Stock)
When asked to describe the Metaverse, Mark Zuckerberg helpfully explained it as an “embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not simply looking at it” in a letter to Meta Platforms stockholders sent in October 2021 (Garon 2022, para.3). This is a straightforward and practical way of thinking about things. With the help of virtual reality headsets, users of the Metaverse can fully immerse themselves in digital worlds, both visually and physically (through haptic interfaces). Despite its recent meteoric rise in fame, the idea of a “metaverse” has existed for quite some time. Originating in Neal Stephenson’s dystopian 1992 novel Snowcrash, the term “cyberpunk” describes a future in which humans are represented by computer avatars and interact via software-based entities. A rising number of people are interested in using metaverse platforms like Sandbox and Decentraland. Facebook has shifted its strategy to concentrate on metaverse apps, all of which highlight the growing reality of the Metaverse.
According to Garon (2022) the Metaverse is an emerging technology that promises to revolutionize how we interact with the internet, taking us from a primarily textual, point-and-click experience to one in which users actively shape and shape new virtual worlds (para, 4). Web 3.0 technology, such as blockchain, and technological advancements in hardware will be used to create a metaverse that will fundamentally alter our way of life. Imagine yourself working in a virtual environment where you can chat with coworkers from the comfort of your own home or catch up with an old friend who happens to be on a different continent without ever having to leave the virtual table. You can do all these things in the Metaverse and enjoy fantastical modifications like virtual flying.
Omar Wael, a 13-year-old Egyptian developer, uses a virtual reality (VR) device as he works at his home in Alexandria, Egypt, on May 23, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Unexpected applications of new technologies need the development of suitable legal frameworks to govern them. It is unclear how current legal systems will translate to the Metaverse. Over the next several years, as technology improves and more people start using it, the question of how to apply current legal frameworks to the Metaverse or create new ones will become more pressing. As the infrastructure of virtual worlds takes form, leaders in technology, industry, and government must address trust, security, and safety concerns (Combs, 2022, para. 4). The Metaverse presents an opportunity to reshape these worlds using the knowledge gained from past failures. An interesting discussion has been taking place around Web 2, where one should ask what should be included in a governance model for the Metaverse.
I believe that the following governing models can help govern the Metaverse:
(1) Model of decentralization
The Metaverse will be decentralized, but it can be governed at a global level. If individual citizens owned every piece of the Metaverse, how should they be managed? This model is similar to the government of a country where the respective countries agree to abide by the laws, regulations, and treaties enforced by the higher authority (in our case, the world government). This model can be further extended to a federation model, where the country/world is divided into smaller areas, each having its government but following the same basic rules as the world. This is the model that the people of Second Life have been using since its creation: everyone can run any business, and there is no real-world regulation. If you wish, you can make your virtual building look real, with real people living there (or anything else legal in the real world). You can create your world if you prefer not to follow real-world laws. In my opinion, this is the most user-friendly governance model, but also the weakest in terms of freedom.
(2) Model of Federation
In this model, a group of people (perhaps representing a particular country) form a federation of regions can be governed where each part follows its nation’s laws. To enforce the rules, the federation could be divided into several layers of government, which control one another to maintain fairness and transparency. The federated model is similar to the one used for our real-world governments. Still, in a different context: governments within a federation can be based on the laws of other countries’ regions rather than a single government. In this model, when a user buys something from you, he has to follow the directions of your region, not those of his country. You can choose to sell only within your area, making your part a mini-country. This model is often referred to as the “national market.”
(3) Hybrid design model
In this model, the authority that you should obey is your land manager. You have to register with him, and in exchange for the unrestricted use of his land, you have to follow his rules. This is a variation of the previous model, where your land manager enforces the laws of your region, and a government or other entity executes the area’s laws. You can have several land managers, all working for different purposes, and you can have several regions at the same time. This way, you can move around the Metaverse or sell your land without having to stop using it and find a new place.
(4) Model with restrictions
In this model, the government does not control how you live in the Metaverse. However, if you break the rules, your virtual life could be severely damaged, such as not being able to get into new buildings, rent other people’s land, or make money. As you know, this model is not very user-friendly, but it does have advantages: It promotes safety—if you break the rules, you will be punished, even when no one can see what you have done. You are responsible for the actions that you take. You will have to accept the punishment if you break the rules, but it is your responsibility. You will be punished if you break the rules, even when no one can see what you have done. You can have complete control of your virtual life since you will be able to control what you do in the Metaverse.
(5) Model of Direct Government
In this model, every action is supervised by a real-world government. I believe that the Metaverse will never follow this model: certain principles and rules should be maintained in the Metaverse, just like in the real world. For example, you cannot run into physical harm in the virtual world simply because it is “just a game.” So, a truly user-friendly metaverse should not have a government controlling its citizens but the citizens holding the government. Furthermore, a government that controls a metaverse is not the same as the government of the real world. Most people in the Metaverse will likely choose to go with the model that represents their political views rather than a single government model.
Organizations and people will progressively adopt the use of metaverse technology as we learn more about it, and it will become an integral part of their day-to-day lives. There will be an increasing number of legal and regulatory challenges for which legal advice is needed to assist clients as the Metaverse develops and grows. Suppose the Metaverse grows up to be the ultimate combination of technology, content, and the human experience as envisioned. In that case, it will be necessary for people to understand and deal with the legal and regulatory problems it poses. A wide range of innovative legal challenges will need to be handled due to the metaverse’s enormous potential. Because of the relative youth of metaverse platforms, only the most basic of foundations have been laid for addressing the law and order concerns that will inevitably arise. These concerns will likely grow more pressing as these platforms develop and attract more users. Legal frameworks in this field must change and evolve to construct new worlds with contemporary governance frameworks free from historical clutter but inspired by what has and has not worked in the past.
Combs . (2022, February 8). Metaverse security: How to learn from Internet 2.0 mistakes and build safe virtual worlds | TechRepublic. Metaverse Security: How to Learn From Internet 2.0 Mistakes and Build Safe Virtual Worlds | TechRepublic. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.techrepublic.com/article/metaverse-security-learn-lessons-from-internet-2-0-mistakes-to-build-safe-virtual-worlds/
Li. (n.d.). Who will govern the metaverse? World Economic Forum. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/05/metaverse-governance/
Ara. (n.d.). Exploring the metaverse: What laws will apply? | Insights | DLA Piper Global Law Firm. DLA Piper. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.dlapiper.com/en/us/insights/publications/2022/02/exploring-the-metaverse/
(2022, April 4). Law & Order in the Metaverse. Finextra Research. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.finextra.com/the-long-read/376/law–order-in-the-metaverse
Garon, J. (2022). Legal implications of a ubiquitous metaverse and a Web3 future. Available at SSRN 4002551. https://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4002551