As part of the Agile Nations Metaverse Working Group under the UAE Ministry of Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, & Remote Work Applications, Access Partnership is proud to see the launch of the new non-legislative policy paper on the Responsible Metaverse Self-Governance Framework.
Following 18 months of multistakeholder consultations and international collaboration, we have achieved our initial objective of establishing a common set of minimum self-regulatory principles for responsible and sustainable use of the metaverse that can guide further international collaboration. These principles take into account the tremendous opportunities the metaverse brings while at the same time addressing the areas we need to be better prepared for to mitigate associated risks.
This multistakeholder journey started first with obtaining an understanding of what “the metaverse” is along with its challenges and opportunities, before assessing the current state of regulations to ensure the responsible use of metaverse applications. From there, mapping metaverse applications across industries and economic verticals, and finally, identifying the key evolving priorities in metaverse governance.
This process has provided the Working Group with a solid foundation to propose a set of nine self-regulatory principles that should apply to the metaverse. These proposed self-regulatory principles aim to establish the metaverse as a safe, trustworthy, and enjoyable space for all users:
1) Interoperability for access
- Achieving interoperability necessitates significant investment in platform architecture and operation, including the development of common standards and protocols and regulatory incentives for companies to implement these.
2) Privacy by design and default
- Personal data, such as online identities, in-metaverse purchases, and potentially required biometric data, plays a major role in the metaverse’s expansion and ability to provide personalised and interoperable experiences.
- Privacy by design and default must be integrated throughout all metaverse activities and business practices, from the design stage through the entire data lifecycle. The use of privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) to this end will also minimise personal data use, maximise data security, and empower individuals.
3) Sustainability by design
- Achieving sustainability necessitates solutions to address the massive energy requirements for the metaverse to operate. As such, it is pertinent to integrate energy efficiency into the metaverse’s design – with guidelines and regulations – and examine the lifecycle of the technology involved.
- The principle of reciprocity should be adopted by all users of metaverse platforms to promote trust and fairness. To this end, a set of shared norms and values should be developed, including incentives and rewards to follow these norms.
- Regulators should play a key role in fostering a culture of reciprocity where users collaborate to ensure that the metaverse is a safe, trustworthy, and enjoyable space for all.
5) Transparency for trust
- There are several ways to achieve transparency and trust in the metaverse, such as developing best practices for responsible use and behaviour in virtual environments. Policy prototyping can make improvements upon early-stage policies before wider adoption, helping ensure a collaborative and multi-stakeholder approach.
6) Fairness, equality, and inclusiveness
- The metaverse must be non-discriminatory for all users and should implement measure to ensure inclusivity for all, such as screen reader capabilities. It should also showcase a wide range of cultures, languages, and experiences virtually.
7) Commitment to diversity
- The metaverse must represent the diversity that is inherent in the real world. Diversity, inclusion, and accessibility is crucial to promote the participation of people from all ethnic, gender, racial, and generational backgrounds in the metaverse. It also furthers the digital literacy of societies and their ability to access metaverse technologies.
- Metaverse systems require identifying those responsible for the various phases of the metaverse system lifecycle. Mechanisms for accountability include internal governance frameworks, auditing processes with external organisations, the assessment of algorithms and data, enforcing policies and regulations, and disseminating key educational materials.
9) Safety by design and beneficence
- Safety by design and beneficence involve a range of measures to protect users, including age and identity verification, parental or guardian control functionality, mechanisms to investigate and prevent abusive activities, and content moderation.
- Regulators must play a key role to ensure that policies and regulations minimise risks to children and youth. In the regulatory process, regulators should seek input from health, psychological, sociological, and educational experts.
What is the next step?
As the metaverse continues to develop, the need for international consensus on standards for operation within the metaverse ecosystem increases. The metaverse is being embraced by diverse sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare, tourism, retail, creative economy, education, and financial services, which amplifies the need for stronger cross-sectoral and cross-regional dialogue on developing regulation and a code of conduct for operations within the metaverse.
These minimum self-regulatory principles represent one approach to counter this challenge. Moving forward, governments, industry, and civil society must further enhance collaboration on regulating the metaverse with a view to establish a global framework for responsible and sustainable growth of metaverse platforms. This can aid the global acceptance and legitimacy of the metaverse as a viable constituent of the global digital economy.
Agile Nations Working Group on the Metaverse
To address the multifaceted challenges in metaverse governance, the Agile Nations set up the Agile Nations Metaverse Regulation Working Group in April 2022, chaired by the United Arab Emirates’ Prime Minister’s Office and led by the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications Office. The Agile Nations is an intergovernmental network established in December 2020 with support from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to bring governments and industry together to jointly create a global regulatory environment that allows innovation to flourish while upholding protection for individuals, society, companies, and the environment.
Access Partnership monitors global developments on all matters related to the metaverse. For more information, please contact Hussein Abul-Enein at firstname.lastname@example.org, Melissa Govender, at Melissa.Govender@accesspartnership.com, and Anja Engen at email@example.com.