UK bill on online safety should apply in the Metaverse, say lawmakers

Legislation aimed at regulating certain internet services in the United Kingdom should cover activities in the Metaverse, according to members of the House of Lords.

In a July 12 session of the U.K. parliament, members of the upper house debated whether the Online Safety Bill would cover “certain harmful content” users could come across in a virtual environment like the Metaverse. Many lawmakers considered how regulations could address “ghastly stuff” — according to Baroness Finlay of Llandaff — children might encounter online.

“The metaverse should not be beyond the scope of the Bill and nor should the environments created by it,” said Baron Clement-Jones. “If we do not include that kind of provider environment in its scope, we will fail our children and vulnerable adults and we will be falling down on the job.”

The crux of the argument from many members of the U.K. parliament was based on the bill applying to “anything communicated by means of an internet service”. Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay suggested this scope could include virtual objects or avatars as well as text and images provided by other users.

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Legislation concerning government oversight and protection of online activity varies from country to country and is still largely being developed as adoption grows. In the United States, advocacy groups have called on Meta to not allow minors to use the company’s metaverse platform Horizon Worlds, citing the risk of harassment and loss of privacy.

The U.K. Online Safety Bill is scheduled for more debate in the House of Lords on July 17. The bill must still go through a third reading in the house before final amendments and being signed into law.

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