12:02 p.m., May 21, 2022
What is your definition, as a legal scholar and scholar, of the metaverse?
It is above all an IT, technical and technological object, but not legal. We can see the metaverse as a digital environment in which social interactions are possible. It’s a reality simulator, much like there are flight or driving simulators. The metaverse is therefore the combination of imaging technology (from video games and cinema) and the modalities of social networks. We find their mechanics – friends, posts, likes – but in 3D virtual reality.
Read also – What place for law in the metaverse?
When can the metaverse become an object of law?
Right now in the metaverse is in the science fiction stage. But the mere fact that he is interested in it is telling. As long as the political and financial stakes are negligible, the law does not intervene. But when the two worlds, real and virtual, intersect, the legal prism is necessary. The Monopoly metaphor is a good illustration of this: if you play five in a closed circle, it is not a matter of law. But if we decide to sell a virtual hotel for a real price, to someone who is not in the game, it becomes a social phenomenon that goes beyond the private sphere. We then fall into the legal field.
Negative real-world social interactions are duplicated in the metaverse
What are the fundamental problems and dangers that you identify?
I see three: First, the negative social interactions of the real world are duplicated in the metaverse: criminality, harassment, political or religious extremism. These are the same as on social networks, but they may not be regulated at all in the metaverse. We can therefore wonder about the impact of this non-regulation on that which exists in the real world. The idea would be either to apply the legal tools that we already have, or to create new, more appropriate ones. Then I fear the consequences of the centralization of power. In these totally private parallel worlds, freedoms are granted by their creators. Can we interact freely or talk about everything without moderation in an online game? It all depends on the programming, therefore on the company that owns the code. In the metaverse, there is no public space, but no private life either. Finally, the most frequently mentioned danger is anonymity. But it is in my opinion a question that can be settled by the public authorities. Today, it is technically difficult to browse the Internet in a truly anonymous way. Each of us is identified by their IP address or other technological means (cookies, fingerprinting, etc.). Ideally, we could require an identity document for the creation of an account, as is the case when opening a bank account. It is a political choice whether or not to regulate anonymity.
What meaning do you give to the metaverse?
From novels to metaverse and cinema, it’s the question of fiction that keeps coming back: is it appropriate to live another life in a virtual universe? The answer lies in the balance, in the tipping point between the real and fictional worlds. The metaverse is bound to develop, because it responds to our dreams and puts our fantasies within reach. It is a seductive but dangerous model. A minimum dose of regulation seems to me necessary to channel the impacts on our real lives.
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Metavers: “I fear the consequences of the centralization of power”
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