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UK media regulator says “metaverse” will be regulated under new Online Safety Bill

on Oct 26, 2022
Updated: Nov 19, 2022
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  • Ofcom chief executive warns that metaverse will be regulated in the UK
  • UK introduces new bill to curb sharing of harmful content on social media
  • Metaverse different from conventional social media because of immersive nature

The Chief Executive of UK media regulator Ofcom Melanie Dawes has stated that “metaverse” which is touted by tech giants Microsoft and Meta will be governed by incoming rules that will force the platforms to protect users against online harms.

The UK introduces Online Safety Bill to regulate metaverse

Speaking in London at an event hosted by Global Counsel, Dawes stated the hypothetical virtual world the two companies and other are creating will not fly and the UK’s digital safety regulations.

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Dawes said:

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.

Notably the Online Safety Bill seeks to stop sharing of harmful content on the internet. Most importantly the regulations will require the firms to have strong and proportionate strategies that deal with harmful content like disinformation and material promoting self-harm.  Any firm violating the rules will receive a fine of around 10% of its annual revenues.

According to Dawes, metaverse will not be immune to these new rules. She added that the UK can regulate the metaverse since the scope of the new regulations is wide and can accommodate the companies and platforms instrumental in the metaverse creation.

Immersive nature of metaverse differentiates it from traditional social media

Compare to traditional social media, metaverse has some slight differences that include virtual reality services’ immersive nature that makes it challenging to know what a child is watching once they put on the headset.

Dawes added:

You do need moderation to make sure that you manage these things because they’ve happened at such scale. I think that things like metaverses are adding intensity into that mix.

Awareness about the technology among consumers is lower compared to other technologies such as AI and VR.  A survey by Global counsel revealed that only four in ten Brits are aware of the technology. Attitudes to the tech are negative with Brits more skeptical about the technology than Americans and French nationals.

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