Meta’s Horizon Worlds seems to be a matter of concern for US Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey as they urge Mark Zuckerberg to halt access of teenagers to the Metaverse.
Recently, in a leaked memo, it was unveiled that Horizon Worlds would be made accessible to young adults between the age of 13 and 17 in March; it is currently restricted to users above 18 years. Horizon Worlds is a “cumulative set of immersive virtual reality experiences” which allows users to be a part of virtual events, play games, and communicate with others in the metaverse.
In a letter to the Meta CEO (pdf), the senators expressed concerns regarding the company’s track record of teen privacy on Meta-owned platforms like Instagram and Facebook and how enabling young adults on Horizon Worlds could put them at risk of harm. It adds:
“In light of your company’s record of failure to protect children and teens and a growing body of evidence pointing to threats to young users in the metaverse, we urge you to halt this plan immediately.”
The letter further mentions research about the vulnerability of users in the metaverse to privacy invasion, health and physiological issues, and harassment, among several others. The Senators added that users, including children in the metaverse, are “exposed to abusive behavior such as bullying, threats of violence, and sexual content, every seven minutes.” Thus, they emphasize the company’s gaps in understanding user safety and user interaction in virtual spaces.
Additionally, the letter talks about research where 32% of teen girls reported that Instagram made them feel worse about their bodies. It elaborates by stating:
“among teens who had experienced suicidal thoughts, 13 percent of United Kingdom users and six percent of American users traced the problem to Instagram.9 With a documented track record of failure to protect children and teens, Meta has lost parents’, pediatricians’, policymakers', and the public’s trust.”
Meta declined to comment on the issue, so it is unclear what Zuckerberg plans to do with Horizon Worlds next.
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