At its April plenary, the European Economic and Social Committee adopted an opinion on the impact of the metaverse on society. The opinion emphasises the need for the EU to swiftly address the opportunities and risks associated with the metaverse to ensure an inclusive and secure virtual environment.

The metaverse has already demonstrated its potential to offer cost-effective solutions, faster production, enhanced quality, risk reduction and improved efficiency. It also holds promise in terms of mitigating environmental impacts by enabling remote work and reducing the need for physical travel and carbon emissions.

The EESC rapporteur for the opinion, Martin Böhme, stressed that "the metaverse and virtual worlds are going to have substantial effect on our lives. There are opportunities that come with it, as well as potential pitfalls to anticipate."

Virtual worlds pose several risks, especially for children and vulnerable groups. The Committee calls on platform operators to put in place strict control mechanisms to filter and remove harmful content and safeguards to prevent harassment, abuse and exploitative behaviour. Concerns such as addiction, privacy and mental health issues are also noted among users.

Existing legislation may also not be sufficient to regulate virtual worlds. The EESC urges the EU institutions to ensure the metaverse respects real-world legislation and taxation, and that it addresses its specific needs through new measures.

The opinion points out that the industrial metaverse holds significant potential for European companies looking to optimise their operations, gather data and improve performance. Industrial challenges include the need for increased acceptance of these new technologies, reskilling the workforce and ensuring ethical and safe experiences.

"Building metaverses for business requires particular kinds of competencies, and Europe must strive to become once again a welcoming community for researchers to stay ahead of the curve" said EESC co-rapporteur Hervé Jeannin.

A second opinion on the metaverse is currently being prepared by the EESC for adoption in the second half of the year. (gb)