EU Antitrust Chief Steps up Rhetoric on Metaverse, AI Regulation

EU Antitrust Chief Steps up Rhetoric on Metaverse, AI Regulation
Antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.

The European Union antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager warned Thursday that her team is on guard to curb potential competition abuses in the metaverse and in AI.

“It’s already time for us to start asking what healthy competition would look like in the metaverse,” Vestager said at a Keystone Strategy conference in Brussels, as reported by Reuters.

MetaNews reported earlier this week that the European Commission, a form of cabinet government for the 27-member countries of the EU, has set a May 2023 deadline for implementing rules and regulations for how the metaverse should operate.

EU wants healthy metaverse competition

Margrethe Vestager is Executive Vice-President of the European Commission. She said the EU has started to investigate how language AI models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT are changing the landscape.

“Do we need to do more on something new? And obviously we have started that work,” she said, adding:

“We need to anticipate and plan for change, because it is an obvious fact that our enforcement, our legislative processes, they will always be slower than market developments. Sometimes we should allow ourselves to be bold, in order to be sure that we are up to the challenge.”

Vestager said regulators around the world had increased their oversight of digital markets in the last three years.

“And there’s a much wider political debate that digital markets need careful attention. I think all jurisdictions are moving forward in one form or another,” she explained.

“We are moving at different speeds. We will not get the same legal framework. And maybe that is not a bad thing. Because that will allow us to hone our toolkits in the process of mutual learning.”

Also read: EU Lawmakers Aim to Approve AI Rules Draft Next Month

The metaverse gained importance when Facebook changed its name to Meta Platforms in 2021. The name change reflected founder Mark Zuckerberg’s bet on the emerging industry as the next big thing to succeed the mobile internet.

The decision might have had regulators worried about Meta coming to dominate the sector. Other big tech companies including Google and Microsoft are actively engaged in generative artificial intelligence – another sector viewed by many as a major area for future growth.

Getting it right from start

Margrethe Vestager’s comments come in the wake of recent statements by fellow EU Commissioner Yvo Volman, who said that any future regulation of the metaverse must prioritize user safety, data privacy and non-discrimination.

He said the trading bloc should get its metaverse strategy and policy “right from the start.”

Both Vestager’s and Volman’s comments are seen as part of a broad effort by the European Commission to prevent anti-trust practices by Big Tech. Vestager, who leaves office in 2024, has sounded tough about curbing monopolies in the metaverse in the past.

In January, she emphasized that regulation must address those issues in order to prevent marketplaces “where someone may have a dominant position.”

Vestager’s latest comments come as the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority and the European Union are due to rule on Microsoft’s $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard. The dates of the rulings moved to within a day of each other after Vestager’s team extended their deadline by two weeks to April 25, Bloomberg reported. The UK authority’s ruling comes a day earlier.

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