UK lawmakers urge that the Online Safety Bill should encompass activities in the metaverse, raising concerns about children's online experiences.
During a parliamentary session on July 12, members of the House of Lords debated whether the proposed legislation should address "certain harmful content" that users may encounter in virtual environments like the metaverse. The focus was on how regulations can tackle potential risks, especially for children who may come across objectionable material online.
Several members emphasised the need to include the metaverse and its associated environments within the bill's scope. Member Timothy Clement-Jones stressed that failing to do so would not only neglect the protection of children and vulnerable adults but also indicate a failure to fulfil their responsibilities.
The central argument of many House of Lords members was based on the bill's broad applicability to "anything communicated by means of an internet service." Member Stephen Parkinson suggested that this scope should cover not only text and images provided by other users but also virtual objects, avatars, and user-generated content.
Regulations and oversight of online activities vary across countries and are still evolving as digital platforms gain prominence. In the United States, advocacy groups have called on Meta (formerly Facebook) to implement stringent measures to prevent minors from accessing their metaverse platform, Horizon Worlds, due to concerns about harassment and privacy breaches.
The Online Safety Bill in the UK is scheduled for further debate in the House of Lords on July 17. Before it can become law, the bill must undergo a third reading in the House, along with final amendments.
As lawmakers strive to balance protecting individuals, particularly children, and upholding online freedom, including the metaverse in the legislation reflects the ongoing efforts to adapt regulatory frameworks in the changing digital landscape.
The writer is the founder at yMedia. He ventured into crypto in 2013 and is an ETH maximalist. Twitter: @bhardwajshash