Facebook working on ways to protect users in the 'metaverse' -senior exec Clegg

Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs & Communications at Meta (Facebook), participates remotely in the Web Summit, Europe's largest technology conference, in Lisbon, Portugal, November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

(Reuters) - Facebook Inc's head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said the company was working on ways to protect users in the metaverse, speaking in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday.

The company last week changed its name https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebooks-zuckerberg-kicks-off-its-virtual-reality-event-with-metaverse-vision-2021-10-28 to Meta Platforms Inc to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a shared virtual environment that it bets will be the successor to the mobile internet.

Clegg, who said it could take up to 15 years for the metaverse to come to fruition, said there would be time for the company to build in safety and privacy protections.

"This time we can work with academics, we can work with lawmakers, we can work with regulators together and collaboratively, to put the guard rails in place before the technology matures," he said in a Zoom interview.

Facebook, which has long been under scrutiny https://www.reuters.com/technology/changing-facebooks-name-will-not-deter-lawmaker-or-regulatory-scrutiny-experts-2021-10-20 from regulators and lawmakers over its approach to users' safety, privacy and for failures in policing platform abuses https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-knew-about-failed-police-abusive-content-globally-documents-2021-10-25 like hate speech, has faced heightened criticism after former employee Frances Haugen leaked internal documents which she said showed the company put profit before user safety.

The company said the documents have been used to present a false picture of its work.

On Monday Haugen spoke at Web Summit in Lisbon, urging CEO Mark Zuckerberg to step down https://www.reuters.com/technology/facebook-whistleblower-haugen-sees-no-sense-meta-rebrand-2021-11-01 and arguing Facebook should devote resources to ensuring safety on existing platforms rather than investing in the metaverse.

Clegg said it was "not an either/or choice" between its current responsibilities and investing in the metaverse.

He also said that as the metaverse should be "an interoperable ecosystem," the company's content standards would need to be consistent with other tech firms building for the metaverse. He said the protocols and standards of this interoperability would be "some of the most difficult and most important policy work."

Facebook on Tuesday announced new European partners in its XR Programs and Research Fund, a two-year, $50 million investment that it says will help it build the metaverse responsibly.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Lisbon; Writing by Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Editing by Kenneth Li and Matthew Lewis)

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