Dozens of advocacy organizations and child safety experts have implored Meta Platforms Inc. to abandon its plans to allow minors access to its new virtual reality environment.
In the coming months, Meta intends to invite adolescents and young adults to its Horizon Worlds metaverse application. The organizations and experts who signed the petition, which was delivered to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, warn that the virtual reality program, which is still in its infancy, would expose children to harassment and privacy violations.
The groups, led by Fairplay, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, Common Sense Media, and others, wrote, “Meta must wait for more peer-reviewed research on the potential risks of the metaverse to ensure that children and adolescents are safe.”
The letter references an analysis conducted by the Center for Countering Digital Hate in March, which revealed that users under the age of 18 are already being harassed by adults on the app. During 100 excursions to the most popular worlds in Horizon Universe, researchers from the center observed 19 instances of abuse, including sexual harassment, directed at adolescents by adults.
Youth Social Media Crackdown Concerns Privacy
Joe Osborne, a spokesperson for Meta, stated, “Before we make Horizon Worlds available to adolescents, we will have additional safeguards and tools in place to help provide age-appropriate experiences for them.” “Quest headsets are designed for users over the age of 13, and we encourage parents and guardians to utilize our parental supervision tools, such as managing app access, to help ensure safe experiences.”
Meta has been criticized for the effect its products have on the mental health of youth. Facebook was accused by a whistleblower in 2021 of prioritizing profits over safety and failing to protect children, specifically adolescent females who spent too much time on Instagram.
Some research concludes that high levels of social media use contribute to depression in adolescents, while others find no correlation.
The signatories of the letter argued that Meta’s new flagship initiative should forge a new path in the metaverse.
“Should Meta throw open the doors of these worlds to minors without pausing to protect them, you would once again demonstrate your company’s lack of credibility when it comes to protecting the best interests of young people,” they said.
Minimum age to use the metaverse app is now 18.
Content Source: bloomberg.com