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- Two U.S senators have asked Meta’s CEO to block teenagers from accessing Horizon Worlds
- The lawmakers fear that the metaverse platform will contribute to teenagers having suicidal thoughts
- In a letter, the senators noted that the digital world is “rife with potential harms”
Two United States lawmakers have written to Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg requesting that teenagers be blocked from accessing Horizon Worlds, a metaverse platform developed by Meta. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey consider a digital world to be “rife with potential harms” and fear that exposure to those harms will increase the chances of young adults having suicidal thoughts. The lawmakers also see eye strain as another serious risk.
Using Teenagers to Boost Profits?
In the letterBlumenthal and Edward asked Zuckerberg to block 13 and 17-year-olds from accessing Horizon Worlds if the initiative is purely profit-driven. The senators acknowledged the presence of reports indicating that the move to market its metaverse to teenagers is “part of a larger effort to salvage Meta’s struggling metaverse practice.”
They also cited Meta’s previous failed attempts at protecting teenagers on its social media platforms Facebook and Instagram as another concern. The lawmakers referenced a report indicating that Instagram has contributed to teenagers having suicidal thoughts, adding that the company is allowing harmful content targeted at teens to run on its social media platforms.
The Metaverse is Under-Researched
Apart from fearing for teenage Horizon Worlds users’ mental and physical well-being, the senators are also worried that the metaverse, as we know it today, is “under-researched” making it hard to assess the risk posed by virtual social experiences.
While no one knows exactly what sharing in the metaverse will look like yet, we believe you should have controls to manage your experience using our products.
— When (@When) January 25, 2022
The U.S. senators’ concerns align with a recent Kaspersky report indicating that metaverse-based criminal activities are likely to increase as the virtual world gains traction. Meta has in the past defended itself saying that Horizon Worlds’ users will have the controls needed to manage their experiences in the digital space.
With Meta’s metaverse division recording lossesit’s yet to be seen how far the company will go to turn its fortunes around.