Zuckerberg’s adult-only virtual reality
Does Mark Zuckerberg regret his decision to bet on the metaverse? In addition to the billions of dollars spent by the company and the less enthusiastic reception by users, now for good measure the rise of AI has cast its shadow over the virtual/augmented reality universes. The Metaverse runs into more trouble with two Democratic senators looking to stop the Meta from letting teenagers into the Horizon Worlds VR app.
The Wall Street Journal last month he informedthat in an attempt to attract more users to Horizons Worlds, which is only available to people over 18, Meta may be planning to allow users aged 13-17 to use the application as early as March.
Two legislators unhappy with Meta’s plans were Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. they wrote letter to Zuckerberg, asking him to put on hold a plan to lower the age limit at Horizon World to 13 in light of the company’s past failure to protect the data of children and teens. The senators also noted the growing body of evidence that points to the dangers younger people are facing in the metaverse.
As early as 2021, documents were leaked showing that Facebook (as it was still called then) spent the last few years studying the harmful effects of Instagram on the mental health of younger users, but ignored the findings and kept them secret. “Other reports have documented Meta’s failure to stop tobacco, alcohol and eating disorder advertisements from reaching teens,” the letter reads.
The senators say that while research into the metaverse’s impact on teens is in its infancy, preliminary findings suggest dangers such as invasion of privacy, manipulation and psychological harm. Mention is also made of the potential for harassment, harassment and exposure to sexual content.
The letter ends with the words:
Reports suggest the emphasis on engaging young people is part of a larger effort to save Meta’s struggling metaverse. The strategy of inviting young users into a digital space full of potential threats should not be driven by the desire to maximize profits.
Earlier this week, Zuckerberg announced that Meta is building a new top-tier product group that will focus on implementing generative AI into its services, providing a “delightful experience” for users. Some see this as a sign that the company is quietly shifting its focus from the metaverse to AI. Reality Labs, the division behind the metaverse, has spent over $24 billion as of 2021 trying to make Zuck’s dream a reality, even though many teens don’t show much interest in VR or AR. In the meantime, generative AI has become the next tech sensation.