Facebook parent company Meta is working on creating its immersive virtual Metaverse. While Meta is using the opportunity to force its way out of its aging user base, US senators are begging CEO Mark Zuckerberg to keep teens out of the virtual world.
United States senators Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal wrote a letter to the Meta CEO where they urged him to limit access of the virtual world to younger people.
The senators explained that Zuckerberg’s virtual world is designed to hyper-target teenage users in order to “maximise profit”. This comes as Meta struggles to combat its aging audience in services such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.
In the letter, the US senators states the company’s “documented track record of failure to protect children and teens” means it cannot be trusted. Over the past two years, it’s been revealed that Meta has continued to try and attract younger users despite conducting research that proves its services have a detrimental effect on young people’s mental health.
“Meta has lost parents’, pediatricians’, policymakers’, and the public’s trust,” they wrote. “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.”
Meta is currently planning to open its Metaverse app Horizon Worlds to younger users, aged between 13 and 17. However, the company’s virtual world has already been criticised for its failure to protect adults from rampant abuse and harassment on the platform.
Multiple users have reported instances of virtual sexual assault and harassment within Horizon Worlds. Infamously, the service’s sexual harassment was so widespread that Meta introduced a safety bubble, forcing avatars to stay away from each other.
Nevertheless, the popularity of Meta’s virtual world is far from what they want it to be. The company has lost billions on the virtual world every quarter, causing investors to lose faith in its Metaverse plans.
After over a year of constant controversies, Meta is still dead set on its Metaverse being the next step for the company. Will it ever succeed?