Meta is proposing a single metaverse where the company holds centralized power, while EU representatives support the development of many different metaverses.
“It is of utmost importance to be cautious not to recreate centralization and new kind of gate-keepers in this new digital world,” Eva Kaili, a member of the European Parliament who is leading the Parliament’s report on non-fungible tokens, told The Block in an email. “It is critical to ensure that people will have full power over their digital lives, the data they share and the content they produce.”
Aura Salla, head of EU affairs at Meta, disagreed.
“Our economy, our consumers, our customers will benefit if we focus on creating one governance,” Salla said, adding that “the metaverse is not only for Meta,” and that cooperation with businesses, stakeholders, creators and policymakers is necessary.
No centralized approach
Joachim Schwerin, the principal economist in the EC's unit for digital transformation, was not in favor of that approach.
“Whatever we come to, we cannot come to a centralized approach," Schwerin said. "We would kill the complete creativity that we have,” and cited the great innovation is coming from the gaming space.
“It can never be one centralized solution, there will be many different solutions,” he added.
The Meta official said that the company intends to beef up an expert workforce in the EU. “In upcoming years, we said we would hire 10,000 people in Europe to work on the metaverse – this is a commitment we still have.”
Just earlier this month, Meta prepared to lay off thousands of employees, following a hiring freeze implemented in September. Meta’s metaverse department, Reality Labs, has also lost $3.7 billion in the third quarter of 2022.
Still early days
In the European Commission, the metaverse is still in the early days of legislative exploration.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed her intentions to explore “new digital opportunities and trends, such as the metaverse” in the coming year to the presidents of the European Parliament and Council of the European Union.
At the same time, the Commission launched its Virtual and Augmented Reality Industrial Coalition in September for the VR industry to communicate with policymakers. EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton, who launched the initiative, said on his blog that “this new virtual environment must embed European values from the outset.”
The EU's regulation of the metaverse may be implicated in other legislation in the pipelines. For one, the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Regulation has included amendments to oblige decentralize finance and non-fungible tokens.
The European Parliament is also bringing forward a report on bespoke regulation of NFTs, to encourage the Commission to take on the proposal with legislative action. The EU Commission is studying different approaches to regulating DeFi, though the report makes no explicit reference to metaverse regulation.