Roblox, the online gaming platform which has a user base largely made up of children under 13 and numbering hundreds of millions, tries to grow with its audience.
The Roblox Corporation announced on its developer conference this month it will soon allow brands to purchase in-game ads directly, creating a huge opportunity for businesses eager to captivate a tech-savvy young audience — and send shivers down the spine of many parents.
Gaming will be central to the construction of a metaverse, raising obvious questions about security, privacy and content moderation. Games like Roblox, Fortnite, and Minecraft are the most mature examples of what metaverse architects envision for an immersive online world; Fortnite developer Epic Games has raised billions largely on the back of his metaverse ambitions.
Some politicians have already noticed this and have asked federal consumer watchdogs to keep an eye out. In February of this year, a group of lawmakers led by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the FTC urging her to use her “full authority” to protect minors from both “tampering” and privacy or security violations. FTC Commissioner Lina Khan responded in a letter to Markey, saying that children’s use of VR gaming platforms poses “serious risks”, including the use of “dark patterns” intended to algorithmically manipulate users into purchases or other decisions.
Washington keeps a close eye on the gaming industry. In the early 1990s, the US Senate held hearings on the rise of increasingly violent video games, which led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which still ranks games by age group today. America has now largely made peace with beheadings, mutilations and other forms of simulated atrocity, but the ways in which online gaming spaces can materially affect children’s health and privacy are still relatively under-monitored and understood. (Last week, the Department of Homeland Security awarded a $700,000 grant to researchers investigating political extremism in online gaming spaces.)
Each of these problems will only become a bigger problem in a virtual space like the metaverse, where not only are interactions more unpredictable and intimate than they appear on our current screens, but the devices they use to collect large amounts of data that allow smartphones to see looks discreet by comparison. Protecting children is, at least fictitiously, a rare point of unanimous bipartisan agreement. That makes video games an unexpected frontline for the early debates about what exactly the metaverse should be, who should use it, and how.
“In a digital society, it’s impossible to completely cut off kids from the Internet and expect them to do well,” said Will Duffield, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute who focuses on online speech. “It should be more a matter of how children are educated in healthy, responsible and safe internet use, rather than how best to shield them.”
Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis, America’s First Self-Proclaimed”gamer governor”, announced this week that residents of his state can now pay their state taxes in cryptocurrency.
Police, who has been? I’ve been toying with the idea for a while, the development announced yesterday. A state spokesperson confirmed today the system is now live. The States revenue website now lists “cryptocurrency” among the accepted payment methods, specifically that payments can only be made through personal PayPal accounts, and only one type of cryptocurrency can be used per invoice (i.e. no mixing and matching of the four cryptocurrencies currently used by PayPal are accepted: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin).
The only other two states that have moved resolutely toward crypto tax payments are Utah, which is passed a law ordering it to be accepted early next year, and Ohio, where a crypto portal set up by former state treasurer (and Republican Senate primary nominee) Josh Mandel was shut down in 2019 amid questions about its legality.
It hasn’t exactly been a good media cycle for Clearview AI, the facial recognition software company whose signature product is now restricted or banned in a laundry list of countries.
Now the European Parliament may be getting ready to ban it on a large scale. POLITICO’s Clothide Goujard reported: this morning for Pro subscribers that Renew Europe, a liberal group that is one of the largest in Parliament, now largely supports such a ban, bringing it in line with left-wing members who have long been calling for a ban.
As in the United States, they are at odds with law enforcement agencies who are happy to use their tools for surveillance and apprehension. (The center-right European People’s Party, Clothilde writes, is now nearly isolated in its efforts to allow further police use of facial recognition.) In the United States, Vermont became the first state to ban facial recognition in 2020, and 17 places (including one province, king in Washington) to pass similar laws.
Stay in touch with the whole team: Ben Schreckinger ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Konstantin Kakaes ([email protected]); and Heidi Vogt ([email protected]). follow us @DigitalFuture on Twitter.
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