Dem. Senators Push Back Against Meta Opening Metaverse App to Teens

  • Meta is preparing to open its app ‘Horizon Worlds’ to teenagers earlier this month.
  • Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal called on the company to halt plans for the app’s release.
  • Meta, which is struggling to find users for its new virtual reality Metaverse, is looking to tap into a younger base.

Two Democratic Senators are pressuring Meta to halt plans to open Metaverse to teenagers by lowering the age limit on the “Horizon Worlds” app, criticizing the company’s past handling of data and privacy of the youth.

In a joint letter to Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal demanded the company’s scrap plans to expand access to the app – a virtual reality program hosted on Metaverse – for teenagers aged 13 to 17 as soon as this month. . Currently, the app only allows users aged 18 and above.

“Meta’s plan to target young people with its metaverse offerings is in particular part of your consistent failure to protect young users,” the Senators wrote. “With a documented track record of failure to protect children and adolescents, Meta has lost the trust of parents, pediatricians, policy makers, and the public.”

In a statement to Insider, a Meta spokesperson said that its Quest VR platform – the virtual reality headset required to access Horizon“Always designed for people aged 13+” and thus “makes sense” for the company to expand into younger demographics.

“Teenagers are already spending time in Quest’s various VR experiences and we want to make sure we can give them a great experience in Horizon Worlds as well, with age-appropriate tools and protection,” a a Meta spokesperson told Insider.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Meta plans to release the Horizon Worlds app to teenagers to expand its user base. In an internal memo cited by the Journal, Horizon vice president Gabriel Aul told staff that improving user retention among youth users is a top priority.

“Today our competitors are doing a better job meeting the unique needs of these groups,” Aul wrote, per the Journal. “For Horizon to be successful we need to make sure we serve this cohort first and foremost.”

In their letter, Markey and Blumenthal harp on Meta’s past efforts with children and young adults, arguing that the company threatens the well-being of American teenagers.

Last year, Meta was hit with a barrage of lawsuits alleging that its platforms like Facebook and Instagram caused harm to children — including two that said Instagram contributed to illnesses in teenage food.

“Any strategy to invite young users into a digital space full of potential harms should not be driven by an objective to maximize profits,” the Senators wrote. “We call on you to immediately stop Meta’s plan to bring teenage users to Horizon Worlds.”

Sen. Markey has a track record of exploring virtual reality, especially as it relates to children. In February, he called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate companies that work to develop Metaverse apps, particularly regarding children’s privacy and security.

Building the Metaverse — a new virtual world that allows users to interact seamlessly in what Meta likens to a new internet — cost the company billions, the Journal reported. .

But Horizon Worlds, a flagship Metaverse property, is struggling to find and retain users, according to the Journal. Meta is shooting for one million active Horizon users by the end of the year, the Journal reported.

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