Ethicist and researcher Lucy Sparrow further argues for the necessity for a “community manager” approach to moderation, with some moderators tasked not only with quietly managing content behind the scenes, but also actively cultivating the wider community of players. I will repeat that call. Moderation is vital, and it is more than being punitive.
It is important to note that these strategies must be applied together. Instruments at the individual level only work in conjunction with effective supervision. A techno-libertarian approach that suggests that all the user needs is a “block” tool, which is just going to recreate the layers of hell that already exist on social media.
Virtual reality is reality, act accordingly
Existing laws may already apply to metaverse spaces. What is essential is recognizing that online interactions are real and meaningful. Stalking in VR should be treated like stalking in the physical world; so should be sexual harassment. While law enforcement rarely has an interest in actually helping people, that doesn’t mean the companies responsible for various metaverse spaces don’t have a responsibility to their users. So even if a potentially illegal act is not referred to the police, it should still be grounds for severe sanctions, perhaps via a watchlist shared by a trusted third party in all virtual spaces, such as an ethical partnership.
Likewise, while the legal landscape worldwide remains divided on this issue, we must nip any implementation of gambling mechanisms in the bud.
The use of microtransactions in many games can easily be turned into gambling through systems like loot boxes, and platforms like VRChat already have a lucrative secondary market for avatars, costumes and other digital assets. Right now, it’s proving to be a mostly friendly and lucrative space for digital artists. In the hands of a company, it can become a casino. Existing gambling laws, such as restrictions on sales to children or confining gambling mechanisms in narrowly defined digital spaces, could theoretically be used to stop this before it starts. There is even scope for updating or rewriting the Interstate Wire Act for the 21st century.
Many game studios insist that the virtual nature of the transactions, combined with the fact that the “payouts” are always digital items rather than real currency, sets them apart from “real” gambling. There’s a reason for this: most of the existing restrictions on gambling in the US ask if the bet has ‘real value’. But we need to broaden our understanding of reality to include these mechanisms, because virtual goods are undeniably valuable. And if VR ever becomes a bigger part of our lives – as big as the internet already is – then claims about digital goods that have no value will look even more dangerously old-fashioned than they already are.
Just say no to cryptography
The most obvious source of corruption in metaverse spaces right now is the risk of NFTs and cryptocurrency. In recent months, a number of Ponzi schemes and other NFT property scams have involved the creation of video games and virtual worlds, and many people remain eager to introduce NFTs into online gaming with word salad promises valuable to regular gamers. .
While the ongoing crypto crash may solve this problem, securing a viable future for virtual reality means ensuring the early adopters aren’t scammed into losing their savings. For some, the arrival of the metaverse is nothing more than yet another opportunity to smuggle various crypto offerings. But that would be poisonous to this young creative garden. Not only would it be stultifying to that innovative spirit, but it would also – like the gambling mechanics I’ve already fought against – create and nurture a predatory environment for users.