As a derivative of Web 2.0, the Metaverse has many of the characteristics that Web 2.0 has, such as information exchange, interactivity and more complex online virtual communities. The Metaverse offers the possibility of virtual space diversity through technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality (Pesce, 2017). However, at the present stage, the Metaverse may need to involve more complex governance than Web 2.0 due to the lack of clear regulatory standards and the fact that it is still in a phase of rapid development and updating (Jackson, 2022). This article will look at the virtual economy and commercial opportunities offered by the Metaverse and the issues it may involve, the privacy and security issues of data involved in the Metaverse, and the balance between the Metaverse and the real world, to analyse how the Metaverse can be more efficiently and flexibly governed based on Web 2.0 regulation.
Issues arising from the virtual economy and commercial opportunities
The Metaverse contributes significantly to the development of the virtual economy. Users of the Metaverse exchange goods in virtual worlds to achieve a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Virtual goods and virtual currencies are sometimes exchanged for real money, while ‘created assets’ in virtual worlds can be sold as intellectual property for real-world profits (Wikipedia Contributors, 2019). This has created commercial opportunities for virtual world game developers and users.
One of the problems facing the virtual economy is the precarious nature of the Metaverse. Virtual worlds offered through online technology create a sense of insecurity compared to the materialistic real world. For example, the game servers can be stopped or terminated at any time, and virtual digital currency and achievements may not be transferred to other virtual worlds, users may no longer even access them. This is an unpredictable loss for users who have invested a lot of time and real money in one virtual world. Also, under the influence of the product life cycle, game developers can deliberately create a devaluation of digital currencies and goods in order to maintain game profits. For example, by selling stronger legendary items later in the game to make other items sold earlier quickly lose their use value, it forces players to pour their money to maintain a better gameplay experience. It follows that the Metaverse industry should set appropriate regulations to avoid pernicious conduct like this that lure and deceive consumers.
There is also the question of whether the sale of virtual assets should be taxable. Compared to other modes of Web 2.0, such as social media platforms where income generated by users is more easily taxable, the virtual economy within the Metaverse is difficult to tax due to the indeterminate nature of virtual property (Druckman-Church, 2013), and the current inadequacy of the laws governing the taxation of the sale of virtual property (Camp, 2007). In this regard, the government should expeditiously enact regulations and monitor the trading of virtual assets in the secondary market to avoid irregularities in the Metaverse, such as intentional price gouging or the use of virtual currency as a conversion vehicle for tax evasion of real currency.
Data security and privacy issues
As with other Web 2.0 derivatives, Metaverse collects a large amount of user data and is at risk of leakage (Lee, et al., 2021). Data collection is useful for learning user preferences, however, on the other hand, selling user information can also be very profitable, and this has been a constant concern for users. Regulations that are acceptable to users should be improved as soon as possible.
Furthermore, users of the Metaverse can completely fictionalise their personal identities. This means that users can customise what they want to show to other users and completely hide their real information, thus hindering other users from making a correct judgement and providing a loophole for deceptive behaviour and after-the-fact escapes by unscrupulous users. Also, due to the current technology of virtual reality, being surveilled and eavesdropped by other users in the virtual world may not be reproduced in the same way as in the real world (Lee, et al., 2021), thus creating a sense of insecurity among users. How these technical imperfections should be fixed is a worthwhile improvement of current Metaverse technology.
Concerns about Metaverse addiction
Virtual reality provides people with an ideal world, while augmented reality provides people with technology to reach additional conveniences on top of the real world, both contributing to the merging of reality and fantasy (Pesce, 2017). This allows people to achieve expectations of social and personal fulfilment through Metaverse that cannot be achieved in the real world. As with Web 2.0, Metaverse communities provide emotional value and social space for ‘lonely’ and ‘resonance-needed’ users, which can lead some users to become too immersed in the virtual world and neglect the real one. Whether it is a world like the one depicted in the movie Ready Play One, where much of everyday life will shift to the Metaverse (Wikipedia Contributors, 2022), or a Metaverse that is limited by technology capabilities and will only become an auxiliary part of the real world after a certain point of development, at the current stage, Metaverse technology has significant limitations, human beings are still unable to separate themselves from the real world in their daily life, work, education, etc. Addiction to the Metaverse can be disconnected from the real world. Moreover, Metaverse addiction may become a way for users to escape from reality (Evans, 2011), which means that it is necessary to govern the Metaverse.
The regulations on online virtual worlds have already taken place in different regions. Concerned about the potential negative effects of playing virtual world games, the Chinese government announced in 2021 that young people under the age of 18 could only play online games for three hours a week or they would be forced offline by the game system(Gonchar, 2021). Similar controls on virtual world gaming exist in Western societies. Games involving violence and pornography are often age-restricted to prevent young people from inappropriately imitating the plots of virtual games and using them in real life. Metaverse, as highly flexible simulated worlds and virtual environments, and its beautification of the real world, is more addictive than other modes of Web 2.0. Furthermore, virtual reality games often involve a first-person perspective, where overly realistic experiences such as violence and sensory stimulation can lead to elevated negative emotions in users, such as anxiety, inattention and violent tendencies (Rajan et al., 2018). Therefore, there is an urgent need for effective regulation of the Metaverse, both from a social and ethical perspective. As can be seen from the above examples, from monitoring the length of time to limiting the simulation of dangerous behaviours and negative emotions, different countries and regions have different governed standards and regulatory directions for virtual world games. The practicalities of governance are dependent on the specific social and political needs of each region.
Below is a YouTube video mentioned about the negative effects of VR:
The Metaverse, based on Web 2.0, has raised concerns among users due to its high degree of flexibility and innovation, as well as the fact that it is not yet properly governed. On the other hand, it also shows the incalculable potential of the Metaverse. With commercial opportunities reflected in the virtual economy, data security issues connected with users’ personal privacy, and addiction to virtual worlds relating to users’ mental health, it can be said that the Metaverse is becoming inextricably linked to society and individuals, just like the other modes of Web 2.0. The development of Metaverse still has a long way to go. The governance of the Metaverse should be constantly progressing.
Camp, B. (2007). The Play’s the Thing: A Theory of Taxing Virtual Worlds. Hastings Law Journal, 59(1). https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.980693
Druckman-Church, M. (2013). Taxing a galaxy far, far away: How virtual property challenges international tax systems. Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, 51(2). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/289695714_Taxing_a_Galaxy_Far_Far_Away_How_Virtual_Property_Challenges_International_Tax_Systems
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Jackson, L. (2022, February 12). Is the Metaverse Just Marketing? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/11/podcasts/metaverse-marketing.html
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