Access Partnership launched the Metaverse Policy Lab (MPL) in February 2022 to merge our experience of working with emerging technologies with our public policy expertise. We understand the different components and complexities of the metaverse, and the Metaverse Dialogue Series 2022 has provided a platform for frank and challenging discussions around metaverse public policy
We have hosted four successful dialogues this year, discussing topics ranging from digital identities and interoperability to the ‘metaversality’ of new products and how we should go about creating a safe and secure metaverse. Speakers from industry and academia joined us to share unique insights into the challenges and opportunities that the metaverse presents.
Our Metaverse Dialogue: Reflection 2022 enabled the moderators of our previous sessions to give an overview of what was discussed and highlight particularly interesting and controversial insights. The session was by moderated William Webb, Access Partnership’s Chief Technology Officer, who shared his unorthodox views on the metaverse and how he believes the technology will develop.
This summary provides an overview of the key findings and discusses their implications.
Title: Metaversality Index
Date: 08 June 2022
The first dialogue attempted to define the metaverse as part, to aid this process, the Fair Tech Institute introduced the Metaversality Index, a first-of-its-kind framework through which to rank metaverse products. According to the index, the metaverse is comprised of seven attributes: entering and presence; identity, representation, and avatars; home, travel, and discovery; interoperability and standards; data protection, privacy, and safety; virtual media/artefacts, markets, and transactions; and interactivity and interfaces.
Participants and thought leaders engaged in a robust discussion on issues including data protection and privacy. One participant noted that while complete anonymity might not be possible, there would always be another platform with less regulation and/or fewer rules, offering individuals the choice of having a riskier experience as a trade-off.
The implications of the metaverse for training and skills development were also discussed. One contributor pointed out that the rules of engagement for education have changed due to a generation that has started to adopt new technologies through gaming and now learns through play. The value proposition for AR/VR and new training techniques in aligning jobs and skills training with gamification was discussed, as well as how metaverse concepts can mesh together with new learning pedagogies.
The key takeaway from this dialogue was that thought leaders have only begun to scratch the surface of what the metaverse is, how it is evolving, and the issues that need to be addressed, including cost, ease of use, and gender disparity.
Metaverse Dialogue: An Exploratory Primer
Title: A Metaverse Constitution?
Date: 14 July 2022
Moderator: Sofia Tirini
This dialogue focused on regulations, risks, and opportunities that the metaverse presents.
The three speakers – Emmanuel Moyrand (a metaverse strategist), Pierre Paperon (FRANCE META), and Dex Hunter-Torricke (Facebook Oversight Board) – shared their views on topics including the current regulatory status of platforms and technologies, how this may affect upcoming metaverse regulations, how rules should be built, and key challenges to be addressed in the metaverse’s developmental phase.
Key takeaways from this discussion were that while existing regulations may be useful for transitioning into this new digital reality, the challenge will come from those that need to evolve. Companies that lead the way on this subject will have to increase efforts to self-regulate while ensuring a high degree of transparency that builds trust among users and regulators. Governments interested in fostering the evolution of these new platforms will have to ensure three key things: ‘educate users – protect them – build trust’.
Metaverse Dialogue: A Metaverse Constitution
Date: 14 September 2022
Moderator: Anja Engen
This dialogue addressed the topic of digital identity in terms of the specific challenges presented by the metaverse. This dialogue had an expert panel comprising Kerry Frank (Snickerdoodle Labs,) Tom Ffiske, (Immersive Wire,) Thommy Eriksson,(University of Gothenburg,) and David Cash, (Cash Labs)
Interoperability, security, and ethical aspects of digital identity were identified as the main areas that require further attention from a policy perspective. Anja noted the importance of avatars and digital assets, which were not directly discussed in the dialogue, arguing that their impact on socio-economic status/differences in the metaverse represents an important aspect of digital identity.
Given that the dialogue focused primarily on social interactions in the metaverse, this is an area that should receive greater consideration. Another topic not discussed during the dialogue was safety – especially for children and vulnerable groups, as well as how the metaverse can avoid scams, sexual harassment, hate speech, and bullying. This is an essential discussion point that requires greater focus.
Several key policy areas for regulation were identified during the dialogue: Privacy and Data Protection; Digital Content and Platforms Regulations, including online harms; Online Child Safety; Copyright; and Cybersecurity.
Metaverse Dialogue: Digital Identities in the Metaverse
Date: 22 September 2022
Moderator: Paula Rabacov
In this dialogue, interoperability was defined as ‘diverse systems being able to communicate between each other to enable common elements and functionality or to exchange data’. This concept is no different in the metaverse than it has been for computing, telecommunications, or other technologies over time. Speakers at this panel included Jason Matusow (Microsoft) William Webb (Access Partnership), and Pedro Ramos(Baptista Luz Advogados.)
An interoperable system is enabled by many things, and there are many different types of interoperability (such as hardware – e.g. headsets). Private parties’ partnerships, which are agreements between organisations, can establish mechanisms to achieve interoperability. Interoperability can also be achieved through the collaborative development of open-source software technologies. This means that all companies and applications within the metaverse need to work together seamlessly to ensure a great user experience.
Currently, there appears to be no common understanding or vision, which makes structured progress increasingly difficult as the destination is very unclear. It is clearly a time of market scepticism, which will change the dynamics of both investment and the willingness to believe the hype.
Issues such as privacy, online harm, anti-social behaviour, and societal norms need to be addressed. These topics are often an extension of issues on current social media platforms. For other areas, the course of action is less certain – standards may not be needed or may only apply to certain types of metaverse. A metaverse ‘taxonomy’ feels important, as it could lead to issues being assigned by type.
Metaverse Dialogue: Interoperability and the Future of the Metaverse
In conclusion: There are many different versions of what the metaverse might be, ranging from the purist view of it as persistent and interoperable to anything involving VR or virtual worlds. Given these various perspectives, it is impossible to say what is the right answer. By separating these visions into different taxonomies, we can ask the same questions of each on topics such as identity. Given the level of enthusiasm for the metaverse, we should also ask more critical questions on concerns regarding where the metaverse is going and how it differs from what’s existed in the past. The answers to these questions will help to inform the debate moving forward.