min read

Anonymity on social media today will be a safety issue in the Metaverse tomorrow

Published on
December 1, 2022
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Internet and social media are evolving and the rise of the Metaverse is slowly but surely beginning to take shape. But the lack of accountability for the user identity seems to persist within social media. Integrating online identity verification services with social media platforms today will make for excellent prerequisites for tomorrow’s Metaverse.

The Metaverse is coming

Meta Platforms, Inc. (formerly known as Facebook, Inc.) has big plans for something they call the Metaverse which they claim will change the way we interact with the internet and with each other. This is deemed the next big evolution of the internet, one that aims to merge the physical world with VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality). Facebooks co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg defines the Metaverse as "a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who are not in the same physical space as you.” According to Zuckerberg, the Metaverse will be accessible on all our different computing platforms, VR and AR, but also PCs, mobile devices, and game consoles. Users will go into the Metaverse to hang out with friends, work, play, learn, shop, create, and more. Through created avatars, people will be able to try on new winter jackets in a store, go to a concert, or go to a party with friends.

The Metaverse is an embodied internet that we go inside, rather than just look at, and it will undeniably change how we communicate and interact on a daily basis. It is a futuristic concept that probably won't change how people interact on social media or the internet in the next couple of years to come. According to Facebook, it will take 10-15 years for their Metaverse to fully realize its potential. In order to develop the metaverse more responsibly, the company has announced a $50 million fund, officially called the XR Programs and Research Fund, aimed at this. This is reassuring as Facebook hardly is a company synonymous with responsibility. They do not have a good track record when it comes to users' privacy and data and will surely face greater challenges in the future Metaverse. Information privacy is a concern stemming from the current challenges facing the whole social media industry.

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The Metaverse already exists

The Metaverse is not a new concept that Facebook invented, it is already all around us. We are entering a virtual version of the world — the Metaverse — every time we go online to check our social media accounts. Many of us already have multiple identities and different versions of ourselves that we use in the Metaverse every day. These multiple different versions may even bear differing names, express themselves formally or casually, share and be associated with different content, and be represented by various avatars. When we do our internet banking matters, pay bills, or open a mortgage we do so as a legally identified person. In our occupational role, we present ourselves with a professional photo and uses industry vernacular over email, LinkedIn, Notion, and the like.

On Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets we present a more informal version of ourselves, an account can even be anonymous. No one is required to prove their identity before marking their presence on social media. Anyone can easily create a fake account using bogus credentials. In fact, anyone can create a profile or a page with anyone else’s name and there is virtually no accountability measures for it. Social media is under increased scrutiny of the regulatory authorities which deem it one of the biggest threat vectors. Yet today few efforts are being made by social media platforms to remedy their total lack of accountability in terms of user identity. Anonymity is the primary loophole for various fraud and fake accounts that spread rumours, hate, and fake news on media platforms. Perhaps the issue of having a trusted online identity on social media ought to be solved before the Metaverse emerges and becomes a dystopian lawless zone.

Implementing some form of identity verification in social media would guarantee that every account is linked to a registered user. However, the challenge with attracting users globally is the difference in user prerequisites. Users in countries with eID schemes prefer using their electronic identity, whereas verifying user identities digitally with physical ID documents is the only feasible method somewhere else. A social media platform implementing some form of identity verification needs to have numerous and various identification solutions in place to enable all their users worldwide to become registered account holders.But implementing and managing numerous solutions from several providers and touchpoints means much technical and administrative complexity.

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