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6 Feb, 2022 09:35

Russia issues ‘metaverse’ warning

Authorities expressed concern about drug dealing and VR’s influence on the physical world
Russia issues ‘metaverse’ warning

Regulators in Russia are looking into the possibility of new restrictions on virtual reality (VR), saying they are worried that it could enable illegal activity, while acknowledging that the “metaverse” also offers new possibilities for human interaction.

The Scientific Technical Center of Roskomnadzor, the federal agency responsible for monitoring mass media, released a report on Wednesday, assessing what it sees as the potential risks and possibilities of VR spaces where people are able to interact across national borders.

The term “metaverse,” which comes out of science fiction, refers to 3D virtual worlds focused on human social connection, and it has increasingly been the focus of tech companies, including the US company Facebook, which recently rebranded as Meta.

According to the report, the metaverse could lend itself to illegal transactions conducted in cryptocurrency, including trade between people of different nationalities that could violate border regulations. The authors claim that virtual spaces would be ripe for drug dealing or trafficking of other banned substances.

The report also cites concerns about the consequences that virtual interaction has for human behavior. The authors write, “The transformation of perception on account of being located in the metaverse will have a meaningful cultural effect on society and will change social behavior, including reducing the importance of moral and ethical norms due to the use of a virtual avatar.” They warn that this could particularly affect children, “the most vulnerable group in the new metaverse.”

In addition to assessing the potential risks of virtual reality, the report also provides an overview of its possibilities, including the growth of new marketplaces, such as an increased demand for video games and online forms of entertainment. The authors also claim that increased online life has made new forms of political activity possible, and they refer to Greta Thunberg, the activist who raised awareness for the dangers of climate change using her online profile.