Editor’s picture: Does Mark Zuckerberg regret his decision to turn everything into the metaverse? In addition to the billions of dollars it has already cost the company and the general apathy of the public, the rise of AI casts a shadow over the virtual/augmented reality universe. Now, the metaverse is facing more problems in the form of two Democratic senators who want to stop Meta from introducing teenagers to the Horizon Worlds VR app.
The Wall Street Journal last month reported that in an attempt to attract more users to Horizons Worlds, which is only available to those aged 18 and over, Meta plans to allow users aged 13-17 on the app, maybe in March.
Two legislators who are not happy with Meta’s plans are Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal. They wrote a letter addressed to Zuckerberg about the report, asking him to stop the plan to lower Horizon World’s age limit to 13 because of the company’s record of failing to protect children and teenagers. The senators also noted a growing body of evidence pointing to the threats young people face in the metaverse.
In 2021, leaked documents showed that Facebook (as before) had spent the last few years investigating the harmful effects of Instagram on the mental health of young users but ignored the findings. and kept it hidden. “Other reports document Meta’s failure to stop ads for tobacco, alcohol, and eating disorder content from targeting teenagers,” the letter said.
The senators said that while research on the impact of the metaverse on teenagers is in its early stages, preliminary findings suggest that there are threats such as invasion of privacy, manipulation, and psychological harm. . The possibility of bullying, harassment, and exposure to sexual content is also discussed.
The letter concluded with “The report suggests that your company’s push to engage young adults is part of a larger effort to save Meta’s struggling metaverse practice. The any strategy to invite young users to a digital space full of potential harms should not be driven by an objective to maximize profits.”
Earlier this week, Zuckerberg announced that Meta is building a new top-level product team that will focus on implementing generative AI in its services, enabling “delightful experiences” for users. Some took this as a sign that the company is quietly shifting its focus away from the metaverse and artificial intelligence. Reality Labs, the division behind the metaverse, has lost more than $24 billion since 2021 trying to make Zuck’s dream come true, despite the fact that many teenagers have no interest in the area. Generative AI, meanwhile, is becoming the next big thing in the tech industry.