Two U.S. senators have asked Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc., to halt plans to release the Horizon Worlds metaverse app to teens.
according to Report Senators from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) sent a letter to Zuckerberg demanding that Meta stop the plan immediately, as the version could suffer from the same shortcomings as the Instagram and Messenger apps for kids.
Horizon is a metaverse application that allows users to access virtual worlds. Launched in December last year, the platform aims to attract 500,000 monthly active users in the first half of 2023. As of January, Horizon had just over 200,000 monthly active users 18 and older. .
To meet its stated goals, in February, Meta decided to open up more of the Horizon app to teens aged 13 to 17 later this month.
But Senators Markey and Blumenthal, who argued the decision could expose teens to inappropriate content, have now asked Zuckerberg to stop the plans immediately.
Teens Face Potential Threats in the Metaverse
In support of their claim, the senators cited Meta’s inability to protect their young audience from inappropriate content.
A flaw in Messenger Kids, the version of Messenger for children ages 6 to 12, allowed users to bypass restrictions and chat with strangers. Meta also failed to prevent ads for tobacco, alcohol and eating disorders from reaching teens.
Additionally, the senators pointed to a 2021 report that found their Instagram service to be harmful to teenage girls. They stress that Meta’s vulnerabilities have cost the platform parents, pediatricians and policymakers.
In addition, teens are at risk of facial and eye movement data collection, physical impairments such as nausea and eye strain, and exposure to metaverse abuse and pornography.
In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Senator Markey said:
“Meta cannot protect young people on its platform, so Mark Zuckerberg has no right to lure more teens into the metaverse wilderness.”
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