The legal ramifications of virtual harms : a study into the human rights implications of a meta-led metaverse

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Dolan, Lisa
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Big Tech is hailing the metaverse as the next evolution of the internet. Facebook, having rebranded as Meta in October 2021, is one of the driving forces behind this new digital frontier and will play a leading role in shaping its trajectory. However, the term ‘metaverse’ is rooted in dystopian fiction and has no precise definition, thus, it is little understood by the general public and scholars alike. Moreover, Meta has been the subject of widespread criticism for its failure to prevent the proliferation of hate speech and disinformation resulting in real-world harms. This has fostered scepticism over the company’s attempts to establish dominion over the metaverse and sparked broader concerns about how human rights will continue to be protected in such extended reality environments. Therefore, this paper explores how the right to privacy and data protection and women and children’s rights will be implicated by the company’s metaverse ambitions. The legal issues arising from this analysis are also examined along with their potential remedies. These legal issues are approached from a specifically European perspective by relying upon EU legislation and the case law of the Council of Europe as the legal mechanisms devised by these institutions will likely set the global standard for metaverse regulation in the future. Finally, this paper proposes a set of recommendations for metaverse governance to help guarantee human rights will continue to be respected and protected in this new digital realm.
Second semester University: University of Vilnius
technological innovations, internet, human rights, right of privacy, legal aspects, women, children, data protection