The EU’s digital chief Margrethe Vestager would like the future operation of the metaverse to be put under the microscope. Vestager said that plans to create the all-encompassing virtual reality environment would pose a challenge for antitrust regulators due to its nebulous nature.

The metaverse is a term that has been popularized in recent times by Meta (formerly Facebook) as a way to create shared virtual spaces, allow user interaction, work, gaming, and consumerism in an immersive environment that mirrors the real world in some ways.

Vestager said the metaverse will open up new markets and businesses but it can also be a space where some players dominate.

Ripe for exploitation

For the bloc’s digital chief, the best thing is to scrutinize the idea to ensure it does not present needless challenges for regulators. Even though Meta is the most well-known example of a company trying to build virtual reality, there are other players like Sandbox and Decentraland. Meanwhile, retailers are already preparing for the inevitable markets the metaverse could open.

Nike has already filed trademark patents for downloadable virtual goods, Walmart plans to build online retail stores filled with virtual goods, and virtual real estate is already selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Plans are underway

In China, Shanghai public authorities plan to offer public services through the metaverse. For the EU, Vestager would like to see increased analysis into the markets that will be born out of these virtual worlds, iterations of the concept, and potential abuses of power that inevitably come up.

Vestager is right to think we should start thinking about the Metaverse now instead of waiting to mitigate risk later. One need not look too far to find an example of where regulators dropped the ball. Facebook is inarguably responsible for political and social upheaval across the world, from the genocide in Myanmar to the Capitol riots that happened in the US on January 6, 2021.