Lawmakers Are Circling the Metaverse

(Photo credit: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr)
(Photo credit: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr)

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When Mark Zuckerberg built his $450 billion social media empire, he got to do it his way. The metaverse will be different.

Two US Senators sent a letter to Meta on Thursday demanding the tech giant scrap its plans to throw its metaverse app Horizon Worlds open to children 13 and upwards. Simultaneously, EU Big Tech antitrust hawk Margrethe Vestager announced she’s keeping her Danish eye on the metaverse from the get-go.

The Zuckerberg Cinematic Metaverse

In other words, Meta won’t be building the metaverse away from prying eyes, as was the case with Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms. And lawmakers will be quick to pounce. Don’t be surprised if Zuck ends up sending just his avatar the next time Congress summons him.

Meta actually won its first bout with antitrust regulators, fending off a 2020 lawsuit from FTC chair Lina Khan to block its acquisition of VR exercise startup Within. But today hating on Meta is one of the few things politicians on both sides of the aisle can agree on:

  • In their letter to Meta senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal said Meta holds a “record of failure to protect children and teens.”
  • This casts a dark cloud over a major growth strategy for Meta: The Wall Street Journal reported in February the company was turning to teens in an effort to boost Horizon Worlds’ lackluster user numbers.

Meta also can’t afford to tune out antitrust regulators just because it’s won one battle. Vestager said at a conference on Thursday regulators must be swift to act so new technologies don’t race ahead of enforcement. “Sometimes we should allow ourselves to be bold, in order to be sure that we are up to the challenge,” she said.

Clouds Over Africa: Nor are Meta’s antitrust problems limited to the US and Europe. An international coalition of competition regulators from over 21 African countries came together on Thursday to announce they’ll collaborate on investigating a broad swathe of business practices by Big Tech companies on the continent. For Meta, which recently tried and failed to extricate itself from a court case in Nairobi brought by a former moderator over working conditions, the hits keep coming.