A Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence in the United Arab Emirates wants the U.N. to take action against crimes in the metaverse.
The metaverse is growing incredibly fast, with companies expected to invest billions of dollars in the upcoming years.
However, there are several growing concerns around the safety of digital twinning and the metaverse. During the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Omar Sultan Al Olama, a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence in the United Arab Emirates, talked about some of these concerns. According to him, the metaverse, while revolutionary, could result in new forms of digital harassment.
Al Olama believes that the U.N. should take action against serious crimes in the metaverse in the same way we have laws to protect people on the internet.
“If I send you a text on WhatsApp, it’s a text, right? It might terrorize you but to a certain degree it will not create the memories that you will have PTSD from it,” said Al Olama. “But if I come into the metaverse and it’s a realistic world, and I actually murder you and you see it, it actually takes you to a certain extreme where you need to enforce aggressively across the world because everyone agrees that certain things are unacceptable.”
Of course, you can’t actually get murdered in the metaverse, though a report on Analytics Insight slightly disagrees. That said, there has been a steady rise in metaverse-related incidents that have some people concerned. We’ve already seen several reports of women coming forward to report that they were virtually groped while visiting a VR social platform.
It’s possible to feel threatened by other people in a virtual experience. Haptic feedback lets you feel it when someone touches you in a virtual environment. In a recent study, one unnamed female researcher who was assaulted in VR talked about her experience saying “It happened so fast I kind of dissociated. One part of my brain was like ‘WTF is happening,’ the other part was like ‘this isn’t a real body,’ and another part was like, ‘this is important research.”
In addition to the above-mentioned incident, there are several reported cases of verbal abuse, racism, and overstepping of personal space, especially towards “female-appearing and female-sounding avatars.”
Another concern is that the metaverse could become a place for sexual predators to find and groom younger users for human trafficking. There are even experts who believe we need to have a version of metaverse police patrolling various worlds for suspicious activity.
Most VR social platforms employ teams of moderators to make sure your metaverse experience is a safe and pleasant one. They also have built-in tools that you can easily access to create your own virtual safe space. Of course, you can always remove your headset if, at any point, you feel uncomfortable.
In Al Olama’s opinion, however, we could be doing more. He believes that governments should step in and create new laws to protect people in the metaverse. As he points out, there are already internet laws to prevent things such as drug trafficking and child pornography.
Chris Cox, the chief product officer at Meta, talked about the importance of increased metaverse security, saying that when it comes to the metaverse, there need to be international standards. As the metaverse grows and becomes more popular, he believes that we’ll eventually see a rating system for different worlds. “There will probably be something like a rating system, which we have for film, we have for music, we have for other types of content so that a parent or a young person can have some sense of what the rules are in the environment they’re going to walk into,” said Cox.
The interesting thing about the metaverse is that it’s made up of multiple worlds. With different brands and industries creating their own virtual environments on an almost daily basis, a dedicated rating system could be ideal for helping people know what they are getting into before entering the metaverse.
Al Olama isn’t alone in believing the U.N. should take a harder stance on crimes in the metaverse. We are also seeing companies reexamine their own HR and business policies to possibly include employee behavior in virtual spaces.
Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see how social VR platforms and companies address these ongoing concerns. As the idea of the metaverse and digital twinning becomes more popular, these types of discussions will only become more commonplace.
Image Credit: VRChat