Two senators urged Mark Zuckerberg not to open Meta’s Horizon Worlds to young people. As early as February, the company may allow 13- to 17-year-olds to use the app as soon as this month in a bid to strengthen its user base and perhaps help justify billions of dollars plowed into Meta’s efforts in the metaverse. Horizon Worlds is currently only .
Democratic Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal urged Zuckerberg to stop plans to bring the app to under-18s. “Given your company’s record of failure to protect children and adolescents and a growing body of evidence pointing to threats to young users of the metaverse, we urge you to stop immediately this plan,” their letter reads, according to .
The senators are said to have raised several concerns about Meta’s track record in protecting young users, as well as research into the possible dangers of the metaverse. They noted past issues such as allowing children aged between six and 12 to bypass age restrictions and talk to strangers in some cases.
The duo cited reports from 2021 about Meta’s internal research, which showed that Instagram is a, especially women. Meta responded to the reports by claiming that research also shows that some girls feel a positive effect from using Instagram and that the app team has done a lot of work on issues like bullying and self-harm to make it a safer space. However, Meta shelved plans for an Instagram Kids app after a backlash.
The senators also cited research from noting that using virtual reality headsets to access metaverse experiences can induce nausea and eye strain, and also affect users’ privacy. The letter points to the Center for Countering Digital Hate suggesting that users of VRChat, a popular social platform available for Quest headsets, may be exposing users to abusive behavior every seven minutes.
Following reports of it bringing Horizon Worlds to younger users, Meta noted that its Quest headsets are designed for users aged 13 and up. That said, a spokesperson said it makes sense to offer Horizon Worlds experiences to young teens with “age-appropriate tools and protection.”
Horizon’s monthly active user numbers were said to be hovering north of 200,000 in January. Meta reportedly hopes to increase that number to half a million by the end of June and one million by the end of the year. An internal memo indicated that the company sees young users as the key to helping it achieve its goals. Meta also plans to release mobile and web versions of Horizon soon.
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