The future of Meta: Digital cities, surveillance, attacks on female creators

The future of Meta: Digital cities, surveillance, attacks on female creators and more


After Facebook’s rebranding of its name to Meta to align with its upcoming vision of the Metaverse, several other similar projects have started making their way into the virtual space ranging from buying digital property to testing the scope of this universe. 


Santa Monica District, a downtown located to the West of Los Angeles, is popular as one of the first real-world areas that allowed users to have access to the metaverse through its FlickPlay app. Branded as the latest metaverse tool, walking around the district has now become a limited augmented reality experience rather than a virtual one as people collect digital tokens similarly to Pokémon GO.


In contrast, Seoul’s is set to enter the Metaverse space in whats is expected to be a 100 percent virtual environment. The programme is scheduled for launching in early 2023. 


In November, its local government had announced that it would be starting its own platform called Metaverse Seoul. The feature would enable gradual integration of city services related to culture, economy, education and civil complaints. 


In addition, the Korean capital has also planned creating virtual versions of its major tourist attractions other than holding festivals in the Metaverse.


Following the launch of the virtual reality game, Horizon Worlds, and the online community platform by Meta — formerly Facebook — one user had reported that the virtual environment had allowed sexual harassment. In a December 16 report from MIT Technology Review, one of Horizon’s beta testers has stated that a stranger had “groped” her avatar. Though there is a feature enabling encasing of an avatar in a protective bubble built as seemingly effective in stopping such attacks, the user had been either unable to activate it in time or was unaware of it.


Katherin Cross, an online harassment researcher from the University of Washington, has remarked that eventually, the very nature of virtual-reality spaces is so designed that it can trick the user into thinking they are “physically” in a certain space and that their “every bodily action is occurring in a 3D environment.” 


Cross added that it is part of the reason why emotional reactions can be even “stronger” in the virtual space, which also makes the justification that “VR triggers the same internal nervous system and psychological responses.”


In November, another woman had reported her metaverse persona had been under attack. In this instance, she was attacked without the use of avatars and with “seemingly more real-world effects on her business.”


When Facebook had announced a rebranding to Meta, Australian artist, Thea-Mai Baumann was quick to report being locked out of her Instagram account. Her handle was “Metaverse.”


Baumann’s Instagram account, in comparison to Meta, was relatively small, with fewer than 1000 followers at the time, so social media fans had thought her account would rather be seized than be bought out by Meta, the firm that owns Instagram.


But she had ended up being locked out for more than a month, along with her identity requiring verification before the Instagram account had restored access.

Baumann was extremely worried about being locked out, highlighting that her @metaverse account on Instagram is “a decade of her life and work,” and she didn’t want her contribution to the metaverse to be just “wiped from the internet.” 


She added that the account is important, especially because it “happens to women in tech, to women of colour in tech, all the time.”


On December 10, Chinese internet giant Baidu had announced plans of launching its own metaverse product, called XiRang. The upcoming universe would be capable of handling input from 100,000 users and would host an AI developer conference. The Baidu Create conference is scheduled for December 27.


Sports apparel and footwear manufacture Nike’s products are also slated to officially go virtual after the acquisition of collectibles brand RTFKT this week. RTFKT, describes itself as “fully formed in the metaverse,” and it is likely to assist Nike to advance its plans to “just do it.”


In the midst of all this, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, had turned over thousands of documents implying that the company was not doing what it had been claiming with regards to removing hate speech and posts. Haugen recently testified that Facebook, now Meta, was involved in encouraging violence, and she has been extremely concerned about the metaverse. 


In a Thursday newsletter by the Time magazine, Haugen had written she was “super scared” about the massive risks of the virtual world for that can be used for surveillance, socializing and much else.

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