How to regulate the Metaverse in the EU

Between 21 and 23 April, the European Commission (Commission) held the closing session of the European citizens’ panels, to debate and propose recommendations on virtual worlds in the EU. As a result, a panel of 150 citizens has contributed to the provision of 23 recommendations on ‘fair and human-centric virtual worlds in the EU’.

Among these recommendations, it is worth noting recommendation 9, which deals with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Metaverse ‘to support the police in preventing, fighting crimes, and controlling what is happening in Virtual Worlds’.  This recommendation foresees the use of artificial intelligence to support security within virtual worlds and insists that human control should not be replaced by AI. On the other hand, recommendations 17, 19 and 21 propose the development of regulation to ensure the protection of users’ personal data and anonymity, as well as the protection of vulnerable groups ‘against manipulation and threats’.

Regarding the anonymity of users in the Metaverse, it should be noted that according to a recent study, conducted by the Berkeley University of California, it is possible to uniquely identify a user with more than 94% accuracy using only 100 seconds of motion data.

In addition to the 23 recommendations document, the Commission opened a public consultation on the citizens’ initiative, so that people may give their feedback on it; it will be open until 3 May. The feedback will then be published amongst the global feedback from Europe on how to approach these new worlds.

In a similar vein, a hearing was held on April 24th, 2023, by the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI), on ’the challenges of regulating the Metaverse’. During this hearing, several speakers (academics, Meta representatives and association representatives) were invited to present their visions of how the Metaverse should be regulated in future.

Four major challenges were identified during this hearing: how to protect property rights, how to protect metaverse users’ data, how to ensure that there is clarity and transparency around the conditions that users are required to agree to and finally, how to control the use of AI in the metaverse, especially when it concerns imitating human beings.

To conclude, it should be noted that a non-legislative EU initiative for the metaverse is expected on June 21st, 2023, according to the Commission’s latest agenda.

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