Roblox, an online gaming platform which boasts a user base of mostly children under the age of 13 and numbering in the hundreds of millions, is trying to grow with its audience.
Roblox Corporation announced on its developer conference this month that it will soon allow brands to buy in-game ads directly, creating a massive opportunity for companies looking to attract tech-savvy young audiences – and sending shivers down the spines of many parents.
Games will be central to the construction of the metaverse, which raises obvious questions of security, privacy, and content moderation. Games like Roblox, Fortnite, and Minecraft are the most mature examples of what the architects of the metaverse envision for an immersive online world; Fortnite developer Epic Games has collected billions largely based on his ambitions in the metaverse.
Some politicians have already taken notice and asked federal consumer watchdogs to keep an eye on it. In February of this year, a group of lawmakers led by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent letter to the FTC urging it to use its “full powers” to protect minors from both “manipulation” and breaches of privacy or security. FTC Commissioner Lina Hahn responded to Marki in a letter saying that children’s use of virtual reality gaming platforms poses “serious risks,” including the use of “dark patterns” designed to algorithmically nudge users toward purchases or other decisions.
Washington’s wary eye on the gaming industry is nothing new. In the early 1990s, the US Senate held hearings on the rise increasingly violent video games, which led to the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which still today classifies games by age group. America has now largely come to terms with beheading, dismemberment, and other forms of simulated gruesomeness, but the ways in which online gaming spaces can significantly affect children’s health and privacy are still poorly monitored and understood. (The Department of Homeland Security awarded a $700,000 grant last week researchers who study political extremism in online gaming spaces.)
Each of these problems will become even more of a problem in a virtual space like the metaverse, where interactions are not only more unpredictable and intimate than they appear on our modern screens, but the devices that allow them to collect vast amounts of data that make smartphones look subdued in comparison. Child protection, at least tentatively, is a rare moment of unanimous bipartisan agreement. This makes video games an unexpected frontline for the first debate about exactly what the metaverse should be, who should use it, and how.
“In a digital society, you can’t completely shut kids off from the Internet and expect them to have a good life,” said Will Duffield, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, which focuses on Internet advocacy. “It should be more about how to raise children to use the Internet in a healthy, responsible and safe way, rather than how best to fence them off.”
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, America’s first self-proclaimed “gamer governor,” announced this week that residents of his state will now be able to pay state taxes in cryptocurrency.
The policy that was have been mulling over the idea for a while, announced the development yesterday. State representative confirmed today the system is now working. State income site now lists “cryptocurrency” under the accepted payment methods section, specifically stating that payments can only be made through personal PayPal accounts, and only one type of cryptocurrency can be used per account (ie, you can’t mix and match the four cryptocurrencies that currently accepted PayPal : Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin).
The only two other states that have moved decisively to tax crypto are Utah passed the law ordering its adoption by early next year, and Ohio, home to a crypto portal created by former state treasurer (and Republican Senate primary candidate) Josh Mandell to close in 2019 amid questions about its legality.
It hasn’t exactly been a good media cycle for Clearview AI, a facial recognition software company whose branded product is currently restricted or banned in laundry list countries.
Now the European Parliament may be preparing to ban it on a large scale. This was reported by Clothide Goujard of POLITICO this morning for Pro subscribers that Renew Europe, a liberal group that is one of the largest in parliament, now largely backs such a ban, putting it in line with left-wing members who have long called for it.
As in the United States, this puts them at odds with law enforcement agencies that want to use their tools to track and detain. (The center-right European People’s Party, writes Clotilde, is now all but isolated in its efforts to allow police to continue using facial recognition.) Vermont became the first state to ban facial recognition in 2020, and 17 localities (including one county, King in Washington) passed 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.