Metaverse crime comes into focus in Davos

New standards and laws must be established to prevent metaverse crime, including murder, a UAE government official said in Davos.

Snow-covered fir trees in Davos

Metaverse regulation came into sharp focus during a panel held on the third day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Speakers included Meta CPO Chris Cox, Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson, Second Life co-founder Philip Rosedale, and the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Omar Sultan Al Olama.

Panelists agreed that the metaverse could offer new opportunities in terms of human expression, 3D meetings, and the creation of new types of content. They also discussed the ways digital reality could turn profits, including with ads and subscriptions.

“A certain extreme”

The panel took a somewhat unexpected turn as Omar Sultan Al Olama discussed the regulatory challenges the metaverse could pose as it becomes more widespread and mature, including the prevention of digital “murder.”

“If I send you a text on WhatsApp, it might terrorize you, but to a certain degree [you wouldn’t] have PTSD from it,” Al Olama said, while a “murder” perpetrated in a metaverse “takes you to a certain extreme.”

Omar Sultan Al Olama added that he expects the United Nations or “other non-governmental bodies” to initiate a debate about the safety of metaverse users, offering the example of murder as one that “everyone agrees is unacceptable.” Coming from a UAE official, however, the remark heralds a wider international debate on what moral norms should govern the digital reality.

Crypto Davos

This year’s WEF has had more crypto-related content than any before, reflecting crypto’s growing integration with mainstream finance and the international community’s growing interest in Web3. The Wednesday panel was part of the Tech and Innovation series, which also included sessions on the future of crypto, central bank digital currencies (CBDC), and crypto’s carbon footprint.

The metaverse is the central focus, though. In addition to the discussion held on Wednesday, a longer talk took place on the last day of the Davos WEF, with an engineering scholar from the New York University in Abu Dhabi joining in to call on psychologists and social scientists to get involved in the construction of the metaverse.

Given the pace at which global corporations invest in metaverse-related projects, and TradFi experts’ hopes that the space would generate billions in profits, it’s not surprising that the Davos crowd pays attention. If the metaverse does become a bridge linking crypto with the mainstream economy, the central tenets of Web3, including decentralization and data ownership, are yet to attract attention.