Metaverse has taken a new revolution on the Internet and social media. It can provide an immersive experience for the users by changing their familiar environment and letting them enter a virtual but realistic “second world” (Wang et al., 2022). As a result, it changes how we communicate and interact with each other and provides a new path to create and share content, which can be considered the next generation of web2.0 (Nath, 2022). However, like web2.0, people notice multiple problems in the metaverse (Pesce, 2021). Therefore, it is important and necessary to governance like web2.0, but we also need to consider more based on the unique characteristics of the metaverse. In this essay, we first introduce the metaverse and its limitations and problems and then focus on how to govern it.
“Rocking the Metaverse, Club Cooee Style” by grace mcdunnough is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 .
2. Why Metaverse is popular recently?
According to Newtown (2022), the metaverse could be considered a single, universal virtual 3D world and provides immersive interaction with other users and the environment. It relied on the techniques of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). With the support of headsets or devices, the VR allows users to enter a virtual world entirely, while the AR migrate the virtual contents into the physical world. Users will control their virtual identities with devices that can capture their eyes, facials and body movement when they join the virtual world. The high accuracy motion capture results in realistic movement of the identities and achieves natural communication with other users. Therefore, users can interact with any people in the world in a “real person” way, and participate in virtual events with people around the world (Wang et al., 2022). The AR/VR applications are popular because they provide an immersive experience and modify our familiar space and take fancy, desired and charming contents into our reality (Pesce, 2021). Just like Pesce (2021) said: “The boundary between what we imagine to be true and what can be seen to be true will wash away.”
On the other hand, the metaverse could be considered the next generation of web2.0. According to Nath (2022), web2.0 is a serious technology development that users can collaborate and share content on the Internet. The users can use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to create and share content worldwide. Anderson (2007) considers it endows the power of “speak” to everyone; thus, users can utilize the crowd’s wisdom for making decisions that are better than listening to a single person’s opinion. In fact, web2.0 is toward user-based services. As Dagiene and Kurilovas (2010) believe, the users are the media themselves, while the social platforms are the managers to organize and present the contents. Metaverse is similar to web2.0 but is more complicated than it. Moy (2022) believes the recent metaverse is based on the foundation of web2.0, which is also used-based and focuses on user-generated content. But metaverse goes further than web2.0. It is decentralized, universal and won’t be controlled by any specific companies or governments, which is significantly different from web2.0. In fact, web2.0 social media platform are showing their effort on it. Just like Mark Zuckerberg expected (Newtown , 2022), people should consider them as a metaverse company rather than a social media company. And other platforms like Twitter add metaverse features into their platforms.
“Exclusive: Mark Zuckerberg on the Quest Pro, future of the metaverse, and more” by Verge. All rights reserved. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gV50hpSKHFQ&t=1s
3. The problem of metaverse
As metaverse follows web2.0, multiple issues from web2.0 should take our attention while several new concerns about metaverse have risen recently.
- Firstly, privacy could be a huge problem in the metaverse. The service providers, e.g., the previous social media companies, could collect users’ information, such as personal details and user behaviours, and utilize the information to achieve their malicious purposes, such as controlling users’ behaviours (Gillespie, 2017). In addition, the metaverse devices can capture more details about information than traditional computers, including facial and body movements (Pesce, 2021), providing more opportunities for companies to analyze the users.
- Second, it could cause bullying, racism and harassment incidents in the metaverse, leading to worse consequences than web2.0. Hate speeches and other malicious behaviours are very common in web2.0 to attack specific groups of people or individuals due to their characteristics (Gillespie, 2017). It could significantly affect the mental health of users. However, it could be more serious in the metaverse as it provides real human interaction, which means the malicious behaviours will be more realistic, just like the users are suffered in real life. For example, a woman claims she suffered sexual harassment in the metaverse such that the malicious user touched her avatar’s body, and she felt significantly unwell because she felt like she was suffering this in real life (Heller, 2022).
“Bully” by trix0r is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .
- The third concern about the metaverse is that it could cause more addition and even affect the identity cognition of the users. As the metaverse can provide an immersive experience, the users might consider the virtual world as the real world they should live in and disconnect the connection to the physical world. What’s more, the metaverse technologies allow us to create virtual identities, such as virtual partners or reuniting with the dead. Therefore, these technologies could cause a loss in the virtual world while causing ethical and governance issues (Wang et al., 2022).
4. How to govern the metaverse?
It is important and necessary for us to consider how to govern the metaverse. We could borrow the governance idea of web2.0 for the metaverse, while we also need to apply some new governance methods specific to the metaverse. To achieve a better metaverse, the metaverse companies, governments and individuals can contribute their effort to governance.
4.1 governance by the metaverse companies
As the ones who create the metaverse, the metaverse companies can do a lot for governance.
For privacy problems, companies should use user information transparently. They should announce what kind of information will be used and for what purposes (Gillespie, 2017). In addition, they should give users the power to control the usage and collection of information. Pesce (2021) also suggest the companies should allow users to take back their own information when they decide to exist on the platform. All in all, strong regulation on usage and collection of user information could prevent privacy problems.
“lock data privacy” by stockcatalog is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .
On the other hand, companies should pay attention to inappropriate user behaviours, such as bullying and racism. The companies can propose filter mechanisms to block inappropriate users. For example, Facebook provides a filter option for users to allow them to remove uncomfortable content and users (Gillespie, 2017). In addition, the users can also set the distance between themselves and non-friends to prevent close contact and potential harassment (Heller, 2022). What’s more, the companies should build up teams or deploy machine learning algorithms to monitor contents and user behaviours and provide quick responses (Wang et al., 2022).
However, governance by the companies has many limitations. Firstly, companies’ self-regularisation is not compulsory but based on social responsibility. Therefore, some companies might not self-regularize their behaviour (Dutton, 2015). In addition, it is a challenge to reduce the impact of inappropriate content and behaviours. Gillespie (2017) believes the filtering mechanism has a time lag – when the users block the content and users, they already suffer mental damage. Although the review team and machine learning algorithm can detect inappropriate things quickly, Gillespie(2017) also shows his concerns about the huge cost of building the review team, which might be unaffordable for the companies. He also considers that, although machine learning can achieve good results in web2.0, which is based on texts, the metaverse is based on realistic interaction that is more complicated than web2.0. Thus machine learning might be hard to achieve good results (Wang et al., 2022).
4.2 governance by governments
Governments also the critical roles in governing the metaverse. They can utilize the legislative power to reduce the metaverse’s negative impact. Firstly, the governments can propose privacy laws to focus the companies on protecting the user information. They can build up committees to monitor and review the companies’ behaviour (Stephens, 2022) to ensure they won’t over-collect the information and use it for unexpected purposes. In addition, governments can propose laws to protect the victims who are suffering from inappropriate content and behaviours. They should increase the penalties these behaviours. For example, Heller (2022) considers that governments should deploy policies to handle sexual harassment in the metaverse as it is realistic and no different from the real one. What’s more, governments can propose laws for addiction and identity cognition. They should ban the algorithms applied by the companies to engage people to spend more time on the metaverse (Cen & Shah, 2021). Furthermore, they could limit the application of virtual partners and reuniting with the dead until the ethical issues are solved (Wang et al., 2022). Other than making the laws, the governments are also encouraged to improve related education and support on the metaverse. Such as helping teenagers to understand the consequences of bullying and identity cognitive and providing psychological support for the victims of bullying (eSafetyCommissioner, 2020).
However, one of the key limitations of government efforts is that they might propose different laws in different regions. As the ultimate vision of the metaverse is a single and universal virtual world, the different policies could cause conflicts. For example, if criminal events happen in the metaverse which related to the users in two different regions, it could be hard to say which country should handle the cases (Stephens, 2020).
4.2 governance by multistakeholders
The multistakeholder approach might be a good way to enhance the governance of the company and government level and solve the previous problems. According to the Internet Society (2016), the approach has been widely applied in web2.0, which consists of opened-ended unleashed innovation, decentralized governance and open and inclusive processes. Under this framework, multiple groups of people with close interests will work together and achieve a stable and high-quality metaverse.
Firstly, intergovernmental organizations could be the key to building the universal metaverse(Stephens, 2020). These organizations consist of multiple nations around the world to set up unified policies and standards to improve and manage the metaverse. It could engage the negotiation within multiple governments and finalize the agreements that align with most of the interests (Dutton, 2015). As a result, the responsibilities of each country are clear and set up unified policies (Internet Society, 2016). International Telecommunication Union (ITU) could be a good example in this case, which set up clearly agreements about telecommunication within the countries, resulting in smooth telecommunication nowadays (Dutton, 2015).
“Internet of Things – Trends and Challenges in Standardization, ITU, Geneva, Switzerland 18 February 2014” by ITU Pictures is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .
On the other hand, the frameworks within metaverse companies, governments are also critical. Stephens (2020) argues that metaverse companies lack standards to guide their development. The multistakeholder organization in the industries could provide clear standards to guide and limit the behaviours of the companies. In addition, the cooperation between the government and industries can help the government propose suitable policies based on the knowledge of the experts. Jin et al., (2022) shows an example of the cooperation within the government, companies and the high-education sector on VR education, which engages the government to understand the VR education better and set up future guidelines.
The metaverse has become the new trend of social media development. It could significantly change how we communicate with each other. However, it also faces many problems just like web2.0. In this essay, we argue that the governance through the companies and governments could be the solution, but it also has some limitations. The multistakeholder framework could the suitable solution to achieve better metaverse.
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