The Chief Technology Officer of Meta, Andrew Bosworth, has warned that poor moderation of the upcoming metaverse could pose an “existential threat.” According to an internal memo obtained by Financial Times, the Meta chief said that the company could not afford to have loose ends, at least in the Meta-built metaverse product offerings. Bosworth makes a critical point because if Meta, a company with a poor track record of user protection, is to usher the world to the new iteration of the internet, then users have to look both ways before crossing this virtual bridge. For instance, the metaverse faces the danger of harassment, bullying, and more, which is already challenging to moderate as it is.
However, instead of posing a solution to the metaverse threat that he pointed out, the CTO conceded that policing user behaviour on such a scale is “practically impossible.” According to The Verge, Bosworth did suggest that Meta could still moderate using stricter rules for multi-user spaces, ranging from lengthy suspensions to outright expulsion. In an article posted on oculus.com by the Meta chief, the company also hinted at more moderation features like blocking and surveillance. These moderation tools are already available to VR users.
“…Our vision of the metaverse—a set of interconnected digital spaces—is an inclusive one, where everyone can enjoy the full richness that AR, VR, and the internet have to offer.”
But technology that opens up new possibilities can also be used to cause harm, and we must be mindful of that as we design, iterate, and bring products to market.
“We often have frank conversations internally and externally about the challenges we face, the trade-offs involved, and the potential outcomes of our work. There are tough societal and technical problems at play, and we grapple with them daily,” Bosworth’s blog post partly read.
The Meta chief mentioned that the company also intends to work carefully with developers because they “understand their communities best.” Bosworth noted that moderation on the metaverse has limitations, mentioning an example that VR feed cannot be recorded indefinitely (one wonders whoever asked them to). According to the Meta chief, it would be a violation of privacy, and also (this probably being the real reason Meta won’t do it), the tools have limited storage and power.
Meta has pledged $50 million for research into practical and ethical issues around its metaverse plans. The company has not been secretive about its plan to usher in this next age, and they’ve basically bought almost every company that makes anything resembling AR/VR gear. Meta is not trying to ruin this, especially since the company’s hard-to-shake reputation has made its moves a thin-ice operation for the next decade.