Ethicist and researcher Lucy Sparrow further believes there is a need for a “community manager” approach to moderation, with some moderators tasked not only with quietly curating content behind the scenes, but also actively cultivating the wider community of players. I will answer that call. Moderation is critical, it’s not just punitive.
It is important to note that these strategies must be used together. Individual-level tools can only be used in conjunction with effective supervision. A techno-liberal approach suggests that all users need is a “block” tool that will only recreate the layers of hell that already exist on social media.
Virtual reality is reality, act accordingly
Existing laws may already apply to metaverse spaces. It’s important to recognize that online interactions are real and meaningful. Stalking in virtual reality should be considered stalking in the physical world; so should sexual harassment. While law enforcement has little interest in actually helping people, that doesn’t mean the companies in charge of the various Metaverse spaces don’t take any responsibility for their users. So even if a potentially illegal act isn’t referred to the police, it should still be grounds for severe sanctions — perhaps through a watchlist shared across all virtual spaces by a trusted third party, such as ethical cooperation.
Again, while the legal landscape remains divided globally on this issue, we need to nip the implementation of any gambling mechanism in the bud.
The use of microtransactions in many games can easily translate into gambling through systems like loot boxes, and platforms like VRChat already offer lucrative secondary markets for avatars, clothing, and other digital assets. Currently, it’s proving to be a very friendly and lucrative space for digital artists. In corporate hands, it could turn into a casino. Existing laws on gambling, such as restricting sales to children or confining gambling mechanics to narrow digital spaces, could theoretically be used to stop it before it begins. There’s even room to update or rewrite the 21st Century Interstate Wire Act.
Many game studios insist that the virtual nature of transactions, combined with the fact that “payouts” are always digital items rather than real money, distinguish them from “real” gambling. There’s a reason for that: Most existing gambling restrictions in the U.S. raise the question of whether wagers have “real value.” But we must expand our understanding of reality to include these mechanisms, because virtual goods undoubtedly have value. If VR does become a bigger part of our lives—as big as the internet—the assertion that digital goods have no value will look more dangerously outdated than it is now.
Say no to encryption
Currently, the most obvious source of corruption in Metaverse is the risk posed by NFTs and cryptocurrencies. Several Ponzi schemes and other scams have been built around NFT assets in recent months involving the creation of video games and virtual worlds, and many are still eager to stuff NFTs into online games with the promise of value to the average gamer.
While the ongoing crypto debacle may fix that, securing a viable future for virtual reality means ensuring that its early adopters aren’t tricked into losing their life savings. For some, the emergence of the metaverse is just another opportunity to tout various crypto products. But this is detrimental to this young garden of creativity. Not only would this undercut this spirit of innovation, but it would create and nurture a predatory environment for users like the gambling mechanics I’ve already attacked.