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Senators Call on FTC To Protect Kids in Metaverse

A child streams content on his phone while wearing headphones.
(Image credit: Cavan Images via Getty Images)

In a letter to Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a trio of senators called on the agency to flex its metaverse muscle to make sure children are protected from potential manipulation.

"While some platforms state their VR devices should not be used by children, many adult users have nonetheless encountered numerous children online. In fact, two-thirds of parents with VR devices report that their children asked them to buy the device," they wrote. Among the potential harms they point to are online harassment and unsafe content.

The senators said increasing use of VR and AR is cause for serious concern related to threats to younger users, including because VR platforms and headsets don't have parental controls. Not surprisingly given Washington's current focus on online platforms, they pointed the finger at Big Tech, saying FTC intervention was needed "as leading technology companies that have historically failed to protect children announce plans to expand their businesses into the 'metaverse.'"

Also: Kids Online Protection Bill Introduced

Markey was a driving force behind the V-chip parental control, a technology that was meant to give parents greater control over their kids TV viewing, though most parents likely don't know the V-chip receiver mandate exists, much less use it.

The senators said the FTC should use its authority under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA, which Markey spearheaded) and the FTC Act to monitor the metaverse. "The need to protect young people from threats online is more urgent than ever. As new technologies emerge, it is incumbent upon the Commission to exercise this authority to protect children," they wrote. ■

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.