Should the UK Online Safety Bill be extended to the metaverse?

The UK debates whether the scope of the impending legislation should be extended to the Metaverse.

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Members of the UK House of Lords debated whether to regulate children’s experiences in the metaverse with the impending Online Safety Legislation. The bill is set to apply to ‘anything communicated by means of an internet service’. In support of the moot, member Timothy Clement-Jones emphasised that ‘if we do not include that kind of provider environment in the bill’s scope, we will fail our children and vulnerable adults and we will be falling down on the job’. However, member Stephen Parkinson is concerned that the scope could extend to virtual objects, avatars, texts and images provided by other users.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston reminded the House that the bill is intended to regulate ‘what we can or cannot see online‘ today and given that the government of the day cannot speak for future governments, ‘it is important that we get this right’. During the debate, Lord Allan of Hallam, among others, was particularly concerned with the procedures contained in the ceding of platform regulatory powers, now wielded by tech giants, to the independent regulator Ofcom.

The bill is scheduled to be debated again on 17 July 2023 in the House of Lords before its third reading, final amendments and ratification into law.