Two United States senators have penned a letter asking Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to halt a plan to allow young adults to access the firm’s metaverse platform, Horizon Worlds.
In a March 1 letter, Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal said that Meta’s reported plan to “invite young users into a digital space rife with potential harms” should not be implemented if the strategy was driven by profit. According to the two lawmakers, allowing teenagers between 13 and 17 years old access to the virtual environment posed “serious risks”, citing privacy concerns, eye strain, and online bullying.
“Meta’s plan to target young people with offerings in the metaverse is particularly concerning in light of your consistent failures to protect young users,” Markey and Blumenthal said to Zuckerberg. “With a documented track record of failure to protect children and teens, Meta has lost parents’, pediatricians’, policymakers’, and the public’s trust.”
Just like the internet today, the metaverse will have both public venues as well as spaces for more private conversations. And you’ll be able to choose how you want to participate. pic.twitter.com/JoGjrHmnlc— Meta (@Meta) January 25, 2022
The two senators cited reports of Instagram being behind many teenagers experiencing suicidal thoughts, as well as the firm’s failure to stop ads for “tobacco, alcohol, and eating disorder content” targeted at young adults:
“As our constituents grow increasingly concerned about the effects of online platforms and social media apps on teens’ well-being, your plans to imminently pull these young people into an under-researched, potentially dangerous virtual realm with consequences for their physical and mental health is unacceptable.”
Markey, a junior senator representing Massachusetts, has previously signed on to legislation targeting the environmental impact of crypto mining and called on mining firms to answer questions regarding data collection. Blumenthal was behind a bill in the last session of the U.S. Congress aimed at allowing third-party applications and app stores on devices released from major tech firms.