EU antitrust chief says scrutiny of competition in metaverse already needed
The Metaverse, shared virtual worlds accessible via the Internet, is the next digital market to attract regulatory scrutiny, said the EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.
The Metaverse has come gained huge popularity since Facebook changed its name to Meta Platforms two years ago to reflect its bet on the new sector as the successor to the mobile internet.
That move has in turn triggered concerns about Meta's possible dominance. Alphabet's Google and Microsoft are also active in generative artificial intelligence that the industry sees as the new bright spot.
Noting the rapid growth in the digital economy over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, Vestager believes that the metaverse should yield new opportunities, but that historically, ‘dominance, entrenched positions, and abuses have rather been the norm.’
Vestager said regulators, “need to anticipate and plan for change, given the obvious fact that our enforcement and legislative process will always be slower than the markets themselves, and that it is time for them to consider what healthy competition looks like in the metaverse.”
The European Union (EU) competition regulator has already taken steps to prevent large online companies like Meta from obstructing smaller competitors, as well as raising concerns regarding the need for protections against discrimination and safety issues within the metaverse.
“It is already time for us to start asking what healthy competition would look like in the Metaverse,” Vestager said in a conference organised by Keystone Strategy.
Vestager asked whether it would change the equation when there are competing digital realities and language AI models like ChatGPT.
“Do we need to do more on something new? And obviously we have started that work,” she said.
She said regulatory scrutiny of digital markets has been escalating worldwide in the last three years.
“There's a much wider political debate that digital markets need careful attention. I think all jurisdictions are moving forward in one form or another,” Vestager said.
She said some antitrust enforcers were more advanced than others.
“We are moving at different speeds. We will not get the same legal framework. And maybe that is not a bad thing. Because that will allow us to hone our toolkits in the process of mutual learning,” Vestager said.
In May, the European Commission is set to release an ‘initiative on virtual worlds,’ which may also include a policy for a digital euro.