Metaverse concept

UK bill designed to keep children safe online should cover metaverse

Some U.K. House of Lords members have called for a bill to regulate internet services to extend to virtual environments such as the metaverse.

The Online Safety Bill, which was debated again by the upper house on July 12, should cover “anything communicated by means of an internet service,” some argued. Spokesman for the digital economy Timothy Clement-Jones argued that failure to cover environments such as the metaverse would be to fail British children and vulnerable adults.

While the finer details of exactly what will be included have still to be decided, some suggested that text, images, digital objects, and avatars should be covered.

The Online Safety Bill will return to the House of Lords on July 17. It still needs to go through a third reading before being finalized and given Royal assent.

Opinion: The metaverse needs a scalable public blockchain

It’s great to see U.K. lawmakers focused on the safety of children and vulnerable adults and doing all they can to protect them as Web 3.0, the metaverse, and digital worlds advance at blistering speed.

However, even with the best intentions and carefully-crafted laws, the metaverse will be global in nature, and its scale will likely make the internet look like a local village. Those who understand it know that entire virtual worlds will be generated by anyone with the skills to do so, and even by artificial intelligence, and policing them will be extremely difficult.

However, if the metaverse was underpinned by a massively scalable public blockchain, that would go some way to solving this problem. On blockchains, all interactions, such as uploading content, interacting with it, and distributing or exchanging it, are recorded on an immutable public database. What happened and who did it are not known to anyone other than the parties involved, but if a crime is committed, there’s an undeniable record that an exchange or interaction occurred.

While good old-fashioned police work will always be necessary when investigating online crimes, blockchains can help law enforcement prove something occurred at a given date and time. While blockchains don’t tell us who owns a given account or exactly what they uploaded or sent to a digital world or another user, they can tell us that a specific account made a transaction, when it occurred, and what data type was involved.

Such a system could help police and others prove when laws have been broken. Since the blockchain is global, international investigations could be set up to investigate crimes that occur in borderless digital worlds, just as they are for the internet today. Incidentally, blockchain-based applications make it much easier for investigators to securely exchange evidence and keep records if and when crimes occur.

While the first step to creating a safe internet and metaverse surely involves penning laws to protect people, a much-needed second step is utilizing existing technology to disincentivize crime and to ensure that when it does occur, there are immutable records to help prove it. A scalable public blockchain is the technology we require to build a safe metaverse for everyone.

Watch: Metaverse is going to change the world as we know it, says Dereck Hoogenkamp

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