This Wednesday, the European Parliament adopted a text that aims to anticipate the challenges that arise from the standardization and generalization of virtual worlds, such as the Metaverse, to provide the European Union with “keys and coordinates” with which to regulate these new technologies.
Thus, the European Parliament approved with 491 votes in favor, 106 against and 35 abstentions a non-binding report on virtual worlds (also known as web 4.0), which aspires to serve as a basis for the future work of the Parliament and the European Commission. in the next legislature, after the European elections in June.
“We are facing a phenomenon that has its own peculiarities and about which we have to take action,” PSOE MEP and report rapporteur Ibán García del Blanco warned EFE.
The EU estimates that, throughout 2024, the size of the Metaverse market could reach 800,000 million dollars (about 736,540 million euros), and that by 2032 it could represent 2.8% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). ) world.
García del Blanco stressed that this “incipient reality” is going to grow at a “dizzying” pace and recalled that it currently has a high number of underage users, although for the moment more concentrated in the United States and Japan.
Faced with this development, MEPs recognize that the technologies that support virtual worlds – in particular the decentralized nature of the blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFT) – are “incongruent” with some EU legal principles .
The virtual projection that a person has on Web 4.0 through their avatar occurs in a space that does not behave with the same rules as the real world, explained García del Blanco, who, therefore, stressed the need to anticipate issues. related to the protection of rights, especially of the most vulnerable people.
The report argues that, in addition to European regulation, accessibility, public services and digital literacy are “essential” to achieve a fair digital transition towards these virtual worlds that “respect the fundamental principles and rights of the Union.”
Promote the EU to be at the forefront of innovation
Along these lines, the European Parliament adopted another text with 484 votes in favor, 45 against and 98 abstentions, which calls for the leadership of the EU in the digital revolution of virtual worlds and the need to promote open standards to avoid monopolies in these new technologies.
“In this new digital transition, we have the opportunity to put the EU at the forefront to make it a more relevant player in an increasingly digitalized world. We must not make the mistakes of the past,” PP MEP and report rapporteur Pablo Arias said in plenary.
Arias explained to EFE that the “Internet giants” took advantage of the lack of specific digital regulation in the EU to “impose” their rules and self-regulate, which harmed the competitiveness of European companies and compromised the data privacy of users. citizens.
For this reason, he recognized the achievements of the European institutions that, throughout the legislature, have placed the community club at the forefront of technological regulation – with standards such as the Digital Services law, Digital Markets law, the Data and of Artificial Intelligence -, and asked “not to leave digital development alone in private hands again.”
“Social networks and digital services are so radically transforming our societies that they cannot be left only in private hands,” Arias remarked.
The report also recognizes the importance of training European citizens in digital skills, the protection of European citizens – especially the most vulnerable people such as children -, innovation, the inclusion of people with disabilities and the development an “adequate” telecommunications infrastructure for the increase in data traffic expected for this decade.