UK’s telecom regulator chief said Meta and Microsoft will not be allowed to self-regulate their metaverses in the UK and will be subject to the country’s proposed Online Safety Bill. Breach of the online safety legislation, which is yet to be approved, could result in hefty fines of up to 10% of annual global revenues.
Metaverse Companies Could Face Massive Fines and Criminal Charges for Breaching UK Online Safety Laws
Metaverse companies including tech giants Meta Platforms and Microsoft will not be able to self-regulate their virtual worlds and will have to comply with the Online Safety Bill in the UK, said Melanie Dawes, CEO of UK telecom regulator Ofcom.
“I’m not sure I really see that ‘self-regulatory phase,’ to be honest, existing from a U.K. perspective. If you’ve got young people in an environment where there’s user-generated content according to the scope of the bill then that will already be caught by the Online Safety Bill.”
– Melanie Dawes, CEO of Ofcom
The Online Safety Bill is a proposed legislation designed to prevent the online sharing of harmful content. The bill, which is subject to approval, would require companies to create a set of strict measures to address harmful content such as misleading vaccine information and content promoting self-harm.
The legislation is particularly focused on protecting children and was developed after a teen in the UK committed suicide after being exposed to self-harm-related content on social media. Following the probe, investigators concluded that the girl took her own life due to the “negative effects” of social media.
Under the terms of the legislation, companies that violate the rules could face fines of up to 10% of their annual global revenues. Furthermore, senior executives of those companies could even face criminal charges in case of extreme violations.
Meta and Microsoft Doubling Down on Metaverse Bets
Dawes’s remarks about self-regulation come amid a key period when tech titans like Meta and Microsoft double down on the metaverse, which is projected to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2029. Meta, which rebranded from Facebook last year to focus on the metaverse, continues to invest heavily in the development of its digital worlds.
However, Mark Zuckerberg’s company has recently trimmed its 2022 growth expectations for its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds following a myriad of bugs and users’ complaints about the company’s virtual space. The company has faced a number of headwinds since the rebrand, with the majority of Meta employees complaining they still don’t understand the company’s metaverse strategy.
Similarly, Microsoft has also been ramping up metaverse investments lately. The company launched its augmented reality (AR) headset HoloLens in 2019 and is set to acquire gaming giant Activision Blizzard for $69 billion.
This article originally appeared on The Tokenist
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