Plenty of pitfalls await Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘metaverse’ plan

 


Facebook will face major hurdles in creating a parallel network of people within the network that exists purely within Facebook.

Despite reports that Facebook is working on a “metaverse” – a digital community of “digital persons” – the process of how to develop such a thing will be fraught with huge risks.

Micro-communities on social media that have not been created by Facebook have been long-recognised by researchers as a potential avenue to use, connecting people with shared interests.

But the challenge is that such areas of use would not be catered for by the immense platform of the social media company.

The scale of the system has also been seen as limiting. But have “virtual communities” always been accessible?

First the big question

It’s early days in exploring how Facebook’s users across all platforms interact but one example of success has been the TikToks where users share short videos of their day’s activities.

The company has more than 500 million users, meaning that almost all of Facebook’s users would find that the Kikos represent an important part of their daily lives.

Last year a Messenger application popular with teens, which counts on Facebook to be the primary storage space for its messages, was acquired by TikTok’s parent company.

The acquisition added another service of expertise to Facebook, allowing it to bolster the social media company’s own operating systems for iOS and Android by copying TikTok’s global community features.

Research shows that Facebook users who are under 35 years old are not alone in developing interest networks where thousands are active and engaging.

According to the Pew Research Centre, half of 14-18 year olds have joined more than one Facebook group.

In addition, the world’s two biggest social networks are currently developing new apps that will allow users to chat with people in their social network on Slack or Microsoft Teams.

Facebook is also building an application called WireMe, which will allow users to send emojis, GIFs and links as they talk to people who are not in their networks within the social media company.

As Facebook’s engineers battle to find ways to monetise their current activity, there is a core question that will not be easily answered. That is, what is the mechanism of connecting people in any social network?

Metaverse or Metaverse

What would this tool be able to do that Facebook can’t? Experts agree that developing something that relies on people to log in to Facebook or Twitter within their current social network is unlike anything else.

“I’m convinced that this system would inherently need a user authentication mechanism. But one that works both on Facebook and without it. What I really don’t understand is how you can do that without putting users’ privacy at risk,” says Brandon Jones, MD at META-Cyber Security.

Connecting more people is seen as a very large, difficult task for a company like Facebook. And it’s easier to understand it as a potentially dangerous tool for hackers, and a potential breach of privacy and the integrity of social interactions.

With any micro-community, it has always been a paramount practise to stay in control of who speaks, views, and shares content in any form.

This means any metaverse could also pose a security threat. To put it in context, let’s take a look at what data is collected about users by these platforms.

How Facebook collects data about its users is very complex and has reached far beyond just updates to its privacy policies. It has a permission flow where a user can explicitly allow the company to collect and store all their information.

Some data collects may include location and additional ones may require both users and Facebook to give permission to share.

Facebook also has its own research division, Facebook Research. This branch of the company is looking at ways to improve users’ experiences on its platforms, which includes ideas like using AI to enhance the user experience and validating the data collected against some compelling research.

Facebook’s research division has acquired many companies that have valuable expertise that could benefit from the micro-community idea. This includes ArloAI, which uses AI to create an Alexa-like voice interface to personalise individuals’ experiences, and the virtual reality startup, Walki that aims to create smart glasses with 3D human senses.

What’s more, it already has a dedicated team developing products that allow people to connect with people who aren’t in their social network. A potential example would be a chatbot that might have the capacity to converse with people outside their walls, that responds in an empathetic way.

In addition, Facebook could leverage AI to guide the user to interact with “virtual beings”, but to this end, it has created the artificial intelligence

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