Metaverse to Face Strict Online Rules in UK


If Meta, Facebook’s parent, thinks it can avoid stringent new rules in the United Kingdom (U.K.), the social media giant should think again.

The company’s metaverse could face strict regulations, putting Meta and the other tech giants behind virtual worlds subject to billions of pounds or dollars in fines. That, according to the experts who have co-authored the soon to be implemented Online Safety Bill.

The measure, which the U.K. government intends to publish in the first quarter of 2022, imposes an online duty of care on platforms, requiring the removal of illegal content.

Read more: UK’s New Approach to Regulate Platforms Yet to Be Tested

For “high-risk, high-reach” services, this will extend to material that is lawful but harmful. Ofcom, the U.K.’s communications regulator, will become the designated regulator, with enforcement powers, for platforms’ codes of practice. The government will retain key delegated powers for the Secretary of State.

Meta raised a red flag of potential regulatory risks from its metaverse strategy to investors in a securities filing. The company has spent $10 billion to build its augmented-reality division as it crafts an avatar-filled virtual world.

“Technology companies can’t use the metaverse to escape regulation,” Lorna Woods and William Perrin, co-authors of the Online Safety Bill, told The Financial Times. “The feeling is that Meta has moved the debate on to a new type of service that avoids regulation. But that isn’t the case at all in our view. The Online Safety regime applies.”

Chris Philp, parliamentary under-secretary of state for digital infrastructure of the U.K., and Nadine Dorries, secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport of the U.K., have warned that the new law would apply in the metaverse, whatever form it eventually takes.

Meta has pledged that safety and privacy will be built into any metaverse design and has vowed to spend $50 million to make it happen.