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What is the Metaverse and how do we know Facebook will build it responsibly?

Facebook horizons workrooms

The metaverse is a virtual world you can explore with other people who are not in the same physical space. You can hang out, work, play, learn shop, create, and more. Facebook is currently hard at work building out the metaverse but like the Internet, one company can’t build it alone – and it won’t be built overnight. That’s why Facebook is partnering with several external entities to get it right the first time.

As seen with Internet technology, the metaverse can be exploited if it’s not carefully constructed. According to Facebook, they will work with experts in government, industry, and academia to think through the potential issues that could arise. For instance, the success of the metaverse depends on building robust interoperability across services, so different companies’ experiences can work together. Third parties must be involved from the start.

Facebook says they will also involve the human rights and civil rights communities to ensure metaverse technologies are built in a way that’s inclusive and empowering. Here are a few key areas Facebook says they will work with others to anticipate the risks and get it right:

  • Economic opportunity: give people more choice, encourage competition and maintain a thriving digital economy
  • Privacy: minimize the amount of data that’s used, build technology to enable privacy-protective data uses and give people transparency and control over their data
  • Safety and integrity: keep people safe online and give them tools to take action or get help if they see something they’re not comfortable with
  • Equity and inclusion: make sure these technologies are designed inclusively and in a way that’s accessible

As part of their effort, Facebook has announced the XR Programs and Research Fund, a two-year $50 million investment in programs and external research. Through the fund, Facebook will collaborate with industry partners, civil rights groups, governments, nonprofits and academic institutions to determine how to build these technologies responsibly.

Here are a few of Facebook’s initial partners:

  • Organization of American States
  • Across Africa
  • Women In Immersive Tech
  • Seoul National University (research into safety, ethics, and responsible design)
  • The University of Hong Kong
  • The Centre for Technology, Robotics (working on privacy and data use topics, an area that has hit Facebook hard)
  • Artificial Intelligence & the Law at the Faculty of Law
  • National University of Singapore
  • Howard University (researching the history of diversity in IT and how it might impact the metaverse)

Facebook firmly believes the metaverse will deepen that human connection regardless of physical distance and without being tied to devices. But they’ll have to rebuild trust they’ve lost over their social network platform abuses. Let’s hope they get it right this time.

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