EU looks to take lead in metaverse world, avoid Big Tech dominance

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission on Tuesday set out a plan in a bid to take the lead in the metaverse – shared virtual worlds accessible through the internet – and to prevent Big Tech dominating a nascent sphere that could boost economic growth.

The EU initiative comes as Facebook owner Meta Platforms, Microsoft and Apple work on metaverse products or services, prompting fears that the companies may get an unfair advantage over smaller rivals.

The EU executive said its initiative aims to reflect EU values and fundamental rights and create an open and interoperable metaverse, an area where it estimates the global market size will exceed 800 billion euros by 2030 from 27 billion last year.

The scheme includes bringing together creators, media companies and others to create an industrial ecosystem, setting up regulatory sandboxes to help companies test out the metaverse and rolling out skills development programmes as well virtual public services.

“We need to have people at the centre and shape it according to our EU digital rights and principles, to address the risks regarding privacy or disinformation. We want to make sure Web 4.0 becomes an open, secure, trustworthy, fair and inclusive digital environment for all,” Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Last week, she said that there are no plans to regulate the metaverse for now but expects the raft of rules enacted in recent years, including privacy, market power and the upcoming artificial intelligence regulation to apply to the new field.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee)