Meta Should Delay Plans To Allow Teens In Horizon Worlds, Groups Urge

Advocacy groups are urging Meta Platforms to hold off on allowing teens to use the Horizon Worlds metaverse app.

“Meta must wait for more peer-reviewed research on the potential risks of the Metaverse to be certain that children and teens would be safe in the immersive experience,” groups including the Center for Digital Democracy, Fairplay and Electronic Privacy Information Center said in a letter sent Friday to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

"Getting teens to use the platform is essential to Meta’s bottom line because they are potential life-long users, and their presence and support can make the platform seem trendy," the groups add. "But what may be good for your bottom line may be incredibly harmful to young people."

The letter comes around two months after The Wall Street Journal reported that Meta aimed to attract teen users to Horizon Worlds.

Fairplay and the others argue that teens' use of social media platforms can be harmful for several reasons -- including that social media can expose teens to biometric data collection as well as “manipulative” marketing practices.

“Young people are targeted in many ways for invasive data collection online. These risks are heightened on VR [virtual reality], where there is the prospect of collecting physiological data -- biomarkers such as faceprints and eye movement data,” the groups write.

“With an even larger volume of extremely sensitive data at its disposal, we know from Meta’s history what it will do with it -- use it to maximize young people’s engagement and to target them with behavioral marketing,” the advocates add. “The result -- impressionable and vulnerable kids and teens are barraged with powerful messages promoting the interests of advertisers, including fostering brand loyalty to an array of goods and services.”

A Meta spokesperson said the company plans to have “additional protections and tools in place to help provide age-appropriate experiences” for teens, before making Horizon Worlds available to them.

“Quest headsets are for people 13+ and we encourage parents and caretakers to use our parental supervision tools, including managing access to apps, to help ensure safe experiences,” the spokesperson added.

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