EU Antitrust Authorities Take Metaverse Into Crosshairs as They Mull Regulatory Moves

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
February 8, 2022 Updated: February 8, 2022

European Union antitrust authorities are taking a hard look at the metaverse to better understand its implications for consumers and competition as they mull moves to regulate the budding network of virtual worlds.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust tsar, told an online event organized by German newspaper publishers that the emergence of the metaverse—a digital space where users can work, socialize, and play—poses new challenges for regulators as they seek to understand the technology and its implications more deeply before pressing ahead with regulations.

“The metaverse is here already. So of course we start analyzing what will be the role for a regulator, what is the role for our legislature,” Vestager, who serves as the EU’s European Commissioner for Competition, said at the event.

“Everything we do must be fact-based and based on the information that we can get. … We need to understand it before we can decide what actions would be appropriate,” she added.

Vestager’s remarks build on earlier comments she made in a January interview with Politico, in which she said the metaverse would usher in new markets and businesses, confronting regulators with a marketplace dynamic in which some players might enjoy a dominant position.

“We should start thinking about it now,” Vestager told the outlet, referring to the potential for companies to abuse their market power in the metaverse and the regulatory framework that would seek to keep that in check.

The metaverse has come into sharper focus since Facebook changed its name to Meta several months ago, reflecting the social media giant’s bet on this budding new sector.

Meta has invested heavily in virtual and augmented reality, though details remain scant around how brands will monetize their operations in the metaverse.

Epoch Times Photo
The logo of Facebook parent Meta is beneath a 3D-printed logo of Facebook on a laptop keyboard in this illustration taken on Nov. 2, 2021. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)

At an advertising conference on Monday, Meta’s head of the metaverse Vishal Shah touched on some of the commercial opportunities that the digital world would offer.

“Without the physical limitations that exist today that put pressure on businesses’ bottom line, things like real estate, supply chain, and geographical reach, the metaverse will open up more opportunities for businesses to make money,” Shah told participants in a virtual conference at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership meeting in New York.

With Shah saying a fully-fledged version of the metaverse could be a decade away, he urged businesses to continue their commercial engagement with Facebook and Instagram in the present as a segue into a more virtual future reality.

“Everything you’re doing now across our apps will benefit you in this metaverse future,” he said, recommending businesses start playing around with augmented reality advertising.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Vestager’s remarks or Meta’s view on the design of a regulatory framework that would apply to the metaverse.

Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'