Two United States senators have asked Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook’s parent company Meta Platforms Inc., to cease plans to release its Horizon Worlds metaverse app to teenagers.
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the senators sent a letter to the CEO, insisting that Meta stop the plans immediately as the release could contain the same flaws as their Instagram and Messenger apps for kids.
Meta Asked to Stop Horizon Plans for Teenagers
Horizon is a metaverse application that gives users access to virtual worlds and avatars. Launched last December, the platform aims to attract 500,000 monthly active users in the first half of 2023. As of January, Horizon had just over 200,000 monthly active users aged 18 and above.
To attain the set goal, Meta decided in February to open Horizon to teenagers aged 13 to 17 later this month.
But senators Markey and Blumenthal believe such a decision comes with the risks of exposing teenagers to inappropriate content, and they have now asked Zuckerberg to halt such plans immediately.
Teenagers to Face Potential Threats in the Metaverse
To substantiate their claims, the senators cited a record of Meta’s inability to protect their young-aged target audience from inappropriate content.
A flaw in Messenger Kids – the Messenger version for children aged 6 to 12 – enabled its users to bypass restrictions and chat with strangers. Meta also failed to prevent tobacco, alcohol, and eating disorder ads from reaching teenagers.
Furthermore, the senators mentioned a 2021 report that found its Instagram service toxic for teen girls. They noted that Meta’s record of failure has caused the platform to lose parents, pediatricians, and policymakers.
Moreover, the teenagers faced the risks of collection of face and eye movement data, physiological damage such as nausea and eyestrain, exposure to abusive behavior, and sexual content on the metaverse.
In a statement sent to WSJ, Senator Markey said: “Meta can’t protect the young people on its platforms now, so Mark Zuckerberg has no right to pull more teens into the wild west of the metaverse.”