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Meta Should Limit Metaverse to Underage Users

Meta, aiming to expand the user base of its Metaverse application Horizon Worlds, plans to allow access to users aged 13-17, currently restricting usage to those over 18.

However, safety organizations and security groups have urged Mark Zuckerberg to reconsider Meta’s intention to introduce young people to the metaverse.

A letter to Meta’s CEO was published on April 14 by online safety groups and experts, calling for the cancellation of the company’s plans to allow teenagers and young adults to engage with the Horizon Worlds metaverse app. The letter, as reported by Bloomberg, was signed by notable groups including Airplay, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, Common Sense Media, among others.

The activists emphasized the need to thoroughly assess the potential risks associated with introducing young people to the metaverse, highlighting concerns over harassment and privacy breaches within the virtual reality application.

Advocates for reconsideration argued that Meta should conduct more peer-reviewed research to determine the metaverse’s potential risks, ensuring the safety of children and young people before proceeding.

Concern about coming of age raised in Metaverse

Meta Should Limit Metaverse to Underage Users

The statement also highlighted a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, published in March, which revealed that users under 18 years old face harassment from adults within the application. This report included findings from 100 visits to Horizon Worlds’ most frequented worlds, documenting 19 instances of abuse against individuals younger than 19, encompassing sexual harassment.

Security professionals have insisted that Meta must establish protective measures for young people within the metaverse project, stating:

“Should Meta proceed to introduce these worlds to younger audiences without establishing safeguards for minors, it would once again demonstrate the company’s unreliability in safeguarding the interests of young people.”

As previously noted, Meta had initiated plans in February to make Horizon Worlds accessible to users aged 13 to 17. The company had initially launched Horizon Worlds for users over the age of 18.

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Meta Should Limit Metaverse to Underage Users

According to a report by Bloomberg, Meta’s spokesperson Joe Osborne stated that the company does not plan to halt its initiatives for younger users in the metaverse but is in the process of implementing further safeguards to protect such users from potential metaverse-related issues.

“Before making Horizon Worlds accessible to younger audiences, we will introduce additional protection and tools designed to provide age-appropriate experiences,” Osborne mentioned.

He also noted, “Quest headsets are intended for users aged 13 and older, and we urge parents and guardians to utilize our parental supervision tools to help ensure a safe experience, including controlling access to apps.”

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