The EU Commission wants to regulate the Metaverse
The EU Commission wants to ensure a safe and fair metaverse. Concrete legislative proposals will follow in 2023.
Last week, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented the priorities for 2023. The letter of intent also announced an "initiative on virtual worlds, such as the metaverse."
EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton got a bit more specific in a blog post titled: "People, technologies and infrastructure - Europe's plan to thrive in the metaverse."
In it, Breton points out that the EU Commission is not done regulating digital markets and, after passing the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA), plans to target the metaverse next.
EU Commission: for security, against monopolies
"We have also learned a lesson from this work: We will not witness a new Wild West or new private monopolies," Breton writes.
The metaverse creates new public spaces ideally designed according to European values and in which people feel as safe as they do in reality.
"Private metaverses should develop based on interoperable standards and no single private player should hold the key to the public square or set it terms and conditions," Breton adds. For them to flourish, he said, they must adhere to interoperability standards and be competitive. "Innovators and technologies should be allowed to thrive unhindered."
Tech firms to help fund EU networks
In the second section, which deals with technology measures, Breton hints at financial support for European companies and introduces a VR and AR industry coalition involving over 40 EU organizations.
Last but not least, Breton touches on the metaverse infrastructure. The outlined plan is to support the expansion of European networks through a metaverse tax paid by digital world providers.
"The current economic climate sees stagnating rewards for investment and decreesing deployment costsfor pure connectivity infrastructure," Breton said. "In Europe, all market players benefiting from the digital transformation should make a fair and proportionate contribution to public goods, services and infrastructure that benefits all Europeans."
Calls for metaverse regulation too early?
The goals and intentions sound sensible. The question will be how to implement them in concrete terms. Forcing companies into an overly tight legal corset could inhibit innovation rather than encourage it.
One example is interoperability standards, on which there is currently no consensus. The industry has only just begun to negotiate standards. This work will take years and it is unsure whether it will be productive. Whether and how the EU Commission can meaningfully contribute to this process is unclear.
The metaverse is in its infancy. Putting a stop to investors and innovators like Meta now could hinder or delay the development of the metaverse.