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Published 24.06.24

Shaping and regulating the metaverse in accordance with children's rights

Torsten Krause, SDC

The European Commission is continuing to prepare the market environment for virtual worlds and artificial intelligence. In this context, it carried out a call for contributions until 11 March and asked for feedback from the sectors of regulation, science, industry and consumer protection regarding their estimates and evaluations of possible trends. In this context, the Digital Opportunities Foundation submitted a contribution that focussed in particular on the rights and needs of children. According to Article 5 of the European Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, children can be defined as a special group of consumers with regard to their age.

Using Livingstone and Stoilova's 4C model, foreseeable and possible developments of opportunities and risks in the categories of content, contact, conduct and contract are highlighted. Due to the expected immersion and the associated pull effect, we point out that children's rights must be considered from the very beginning when shaping and regulating a developing metaverse in order to be able to realise the protection, provision and participation of young people in virtual worlds. These must be structured in such a way that all children can participate equally without experiencing discrimination of any kind and that the child's well-being and best interests are taken into account in the process. In this context, we recommend that the concept of the personal integrity of children, which was newly established as a protection objective in the 2021 German Youth Protection Act, be established for all users of the metaverse and used as a benchmark for regulation.

The statement dated 11 March 2024 can be viewed here.