Meta, the social media giant owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is facing calls from advocacy organizations and safety groups to prevent minors from accessing its metaverse app, Horizon Worlds. Currently, the app is only open to users aged 18 and over, but Meta plans to expand its user base to include 13 to 17-year-olds.
In a letter sent to the Meta CEO on April 14, several safety groups, including Airplay, the Center for Countering Digital Hate, and Common Sense Media, called for the company to reconsider its plans to allow minors to join the virtual reality app. The activists cited potential risks to youth, including harassment and privacy violations.
They argued that Meta should first assess these risks and wait for more peer-reviewed research on the topic to ensure the safety of minors. The letter referred to a March report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate that found minors under 18 had already faced harassment from adults on the app, including sexual harassment. The safety experts called on Meta to prioritize youth protection and cautioned against the company demonstrating a lack of concern for safeguarding young people’s best interests.
Despite the calls to abandon its plans to allow minors into the metaverse, Meta has announced its intention to expand its user base, albeit with additional measures to protect young users from potential violations. Joe Osborne, a representative from Meta, noted that the company would introduce age-appropriate experiences and encourage parents and caretakers to use parental supervision tools to ensure safe experiences.