TECH TALK: BILL MAGEE says the authorities are in a difficult battle with big tech over regulating the cyber world
Big Tech rebuffing Interpol over how best to police the new virtual world of the metaverse doesn’t augur well. Europe’s law enforcement agency met with the likes of Meta and Microsoft with one pressing topic on the agenda: to agree what defines and governs the nascent 3D playground, and artificial intelligence in particular. But the meeting didn’t end well.
Interpol is upping its efforts to get ahead of the global tech innovation, avoid its misuse and prevent a new era of cyber-criminality. It had been hoped the outcome would be in line with Sir Tim Berners-Lee aspirations of an open internet. The World Wide Web founder has been working as director for some years with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with his vision to finally accomplish this aim through the latest incarnation, Web 3.
But just as the original WWW didn’t work out as he hoped, the third web generation – and with it the metaverse concept – is already falling foul of the cyber-law of unintended consequences.
Interpol was told, in no uncertain terms, each big tech company plans its own commercially-driven strictly siloed approach towards delivering a version of the virtual playground. The elite grouping claimed they will each cooperate with regulatory authorities but in their own way.
This should not have come as a surprise. One lumpen metaverse would diminish revenues all round, as Big Tech players fiercely compete for an ever-increasing slice of the multi-trillion-dollar global tech market.
Forbes warns the emergence of an, as yet, unknown number of metaverses presents a series of complex regulatory challenges and urges the concept’s builders to take proactive steps now.
One thing’s for sure. The metaverse as an entity is viewed as inevitable and the next step in the internet’s evolution.
Initially, relying heaving on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets, it will ultimately be available via our computer and cell phone. 24/7. It’s then that AI really comes into its own.
Each big tech player hopes it will reverse the effects of a slowdown in global advertising spending that’s had a catastrophic effect on earnings.
How? By achieving record sales in metaverse-devoted usage plus a plethora of generative AI agents-into-chat, visual creation tools, and multi-modal devices and services.
International disaster management expert Andrew Staniforth, who works with the European Commission, points to new EU regulations aimed at combatting and removing online uncertainties, disinformation and terrorist content whilst supporting victims.
Writing in “Policing Insight” he points out such cybercriminal campaigns impact on citizens’ health, environment and security potentially provoking tensions and violence.
Organised crime groups (OCGs) are ultra-busy expanding their enterprises. “The AI arms race between the cat and the mouse is on,” claims the former Jane’s Police Review anti-terrorism online trainer.
Authorities forced to follow legal and ethical standards and regulations “will constantly be behind their adversaries,” he warns. Now, though, given the pace of technological changes and speed of OCG take-up: “this gap is getting wider.”
Despite the Interpol kick-back, the EU’s new regulatory division ECAT, under the Digital Services Act will subject Big Tech to annual audits. Rule breakers are threatened with fines of up to 6 per cent of global annual turnover.
EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton boldly claims IT companies “will not be able to act as if they were too big to care”.
We’ve kind of been here before. Think antitrust.
Big Tech’s ability to fight regulatory moves is stuff of cyber-legend where a court case can last months, if not years, and eventual outcomes never certain.
How can a single company be expected to cope amid such uncertainties of a global magnitude? Time to enlist outside IT expert help. Pronto.
This column is supported by digital transformation company Exception