Insights European Commission launches Call for Evidence on creating a common EU approach in relation to virtual worlds


The Commission intends to develop a vision for emerging virtual worlds (e.g. metaverses) based on respect for digital rights and EU laws and values. The aim is open, interoperable and innovative virtual worlds that can be used safely and with confidence by the public and businesses. Informed by input from a citizens’ panel, the Commission says that its initiative will describe the vision, address opportunities and societal challenges and announce upcoming implementation measures.

The Commission explains that virtual worlds are changing the way in which we engage with the digital space. They offer real-time, immersive and persistent environments that blend physical and virtual realities in many different areas. Virtual worlds are also part of a wider, longer-term technological change: a transition towards Web 4.0 where physical and digital worlds will enable more intuitive and immersive experiences and smart devices will seamlessly communicate to perform complex tasks.

The Commission said that the first wave of the internet developed mostly in an uncoordinated and unregulated manner leading to a closed ecosystem with the prevalence of proprietary systems and gatekeepers.

Although virtual worlds and the transition to Web 4.0 are still in the early stages, the Commission believes that we are witnessing the dawn of a similar situation, where global corporations are massively investing in core technologies, filing trademarks, and setting de facto standards. The EU virtual worlds’ ecosystem lacks big players in certain key areas, is fragmented and lacks investment capacity. There is a risk of having a small number of big players becoming future gatekeepers of virtual worlds, creating market entry barriers and shutting out EU start-ups and SMEs from this emerging market. In the Commission’s view, such a closed ecosystem can negatively affect the protection of personal information and data, cybersecurity and the freedom and openness of virtual worlds.

The Commission says that it is essential that EU start-ups and SMEs can innovate and that users and content creators are protected and can engage in a confident manner in virtual worlds. Accordingly, it wishes to develop a common EU approach to ensure that this happens. The deadline for submitting evidence is 3 May 2023. To access the Call for Evidence, click here.