Meta, the social network company, is getting some pushback on its plan to market and bring Horizon Worlds, its flagship metaverse app, to teens. Democratic senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal directed a letter to the company to halt these actions, citing concerns about the interactions that teens could have in Meta’s virtual worlds.
Meta Sees Opposition to Metaverse Adoption Plans for Teens
Two Democratic senators have written a letter asking Meta to stop its recently reported plan of opening its metaverse world to teens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal, Democrat senators from Massachusetts and Connecticut, criticize the idea of opening Horizon Worlds, Meta’s flagship metaverse app, to teens 13 years and up, citing diverse factors that might endanger them through the interactions available in this virtual world.
The letter differentiates between standard virtual reality experiences and Horizon Worlds, explaining that “the cumulative set of immersive virtual reality experiences a teenager would confront on the socially-driven Horizon Worlds are distinct from their use of a virtual reality headset to, for example, play a specific single-player game. Inviting young teens into this environment, therefore, poses serious risks.”
Markey and Blumenthal call for halting the plan to protect the health of these young users and their privacy in the metaverse, calling out the company for its previous mistakes involving this demographic.
Meta’s Teen Adoption Push
The Wall Street Journal reported on Meta’s plan of including teens in its metaverse on Feb. 7. According to an internal memo obtained by the news outlet, the company’s new strategy included opening the Horizon Worlds experience to teens aged 13 years old and up. This would constitute a change from the current policies of the app, which only allows users from 18 years old to roam the virtual world.
According to WSJ, Meta’s memo reinforces the need of pushing these services to young users in order to keep growing. Horizon Worlds VP Gabriel Aul reportedly stated:
Today our competitors are doing a much better job meeting the unique needs of these cohorts. For Horizon to succeed we need to ensure that we serve this cohort first and foremost.
While Horizon Worlds experienced rapid growth in its initial stages, growing its user base tenfold soon after release in Decemeber 2021, the app has been criticized for its buggy state even by Meta’s own employees. In October, VP of Metaverse Vishal Shah acknowledged that the issues present in the app hampered the experience for its users and that even employees of the company were not spending much time using it.
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