Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is “super scared” of the metaverse, she has said.
Ms Haugen disclosed a huge trove of files about the social media giant which alleged that the company prioritised inflammatory content over the safeguarding of its users.
She also shared documents that suggested Instagram made girls with body issues feel worse about themselves, and revealed that Facebook had a hidden system whereby high-profile users could flout its rules.
It is these practises which when, translated to the metaverse, give Ms Haugen cause to fear. While it is yet to exist as promised, the metaverse has been idealised as a virtual space that mirrors the real world.
“So, just imagine this with me. When you go into the metaverse, your avatar is a little more handsome or pretty than yourself. You have better clothes than we have in reality. The apartment is more stylish, more calm. And you take your headset off and you go to brush your teeth at the end of the night. And maybe you just don’t like yourself in the mirror as much”, Ms Haugen told Time.
“That cycle… I’m super worried that people are going to look at their apartment, which isn’t as nice, and look at their face or their body, which isn’t as nice, and say: ‘I would rather have my headset on.’ And I haven’t heard Facebook articulate any plan on what to do about that.”
Ms Haugen also expressed concerns that individuals would not be able to consent on whether to have “Facebook’s sensors” such as microphones in their homes.
“This company—which has already shown it lies to us whenever it’s in its own interests—we’re supposed to put cameras and microphones for them in our homes?” she said.
Bloomberg technology columnist Parmy Olson recently spent two weeks in Meta’s (formerly Facebook) social virtual reality platform Horizon World, and expressed concerns about the space.
“To my left, an adult male avatar who had the voice of a boy easily under the age of 10, was screeching what sounded like an obscenity over and over”, she wrote, while “A giant blonde man called BabyFace made strange, animal noises.” Olson also says that “griefers”, people that attempt to disrupt games, were a “constant problem on its social platforms”, according to people she spoke to.
Meta says that its “trained safety specialists” can bring up recordings of any incident, but Olsen says the lack of clear etiquette made her feel uncomfortable.