BLUF

To ensure the metaverse, possibly the next iteration of the internet, is inclusive—people from marginalized communities must help to shape it.

Summary

When Breigha Adeyemo heard about Mark Zuckerberg's vision for the metaverse, she said she was 'scared'. As a researcher who studies the intersections of race, technology, and democracy—and as a Black woman—Adeyemo was concerned about the values encoded into this next-generation internet. Her article's key points include: 
  • The metaverse is a network of virtual environments where people can interact with one another and digital objects (including avatars). 
  • Marginalized people often suffer the most harm from unintended consequences of new technologies (for example, through algorithms). 
  • People who have multiple marginalized identities—such as being Black and disabled—are even more at risk.
  • Ensuring the metaverse is inclusive will require people from marginalized communities to take the lead in shaping it. It will also require regulation with 'teeth' to keep Big Tech accountable.
  • Despite utopian visions, the internet has brought novel forms of harm to society, such as the automated dissemination of propaganda on social media and bias in the algorithms shaping your online experience.
  • 'Whiteness' is embedded as default in these technologies.
  • Facial recognition software performs worse on women and even more on women with darker faces.
  • Until challenged, Facebook allegedly racially profiled its users.
Adeyemo argues that for a democratically-accountable metaverse to happen, there need to be better regulatory frameworks and 'better' design processes to ensure that technology is not biased in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation etc.