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- The future of the internet is among the most-discussed topics these days.
- The metaverse is seen as one of the most important inventions of the 21st century
Between unhinged discussions about the possibilities of the decentralized Web3 to the speculation of how freedom of speech and expression will be protected (and guaranteed) across interconnected virtual worlds of the metaverse, the underlying technology continues to evolve at breakneck speed.
While most think that the metaverse will eventually become the optimal platform for brands and businesses to grow their engagement, one significant aspect is frequently overlooked.
The metaverse is more than a platform where one indulges themselves in immersive and gamified virtual experiences. Instead, the metaverse is a massive ecosystem designed to allow everyone to engage in a new form of expression not limited by the real-world restrictions implemented by centralized bodies.
Metaverses will eventually transition into ways to empower individuals and users through the expression of creativity in terms of building, importing, and engaging with games however they want, and not because of a mass-attended event.
Web2 Is Gradually Killing Freedom of Expression
The exponential growth of social media platforms and other ecosystems of user-generated content (UGC) are among the key drivers of Web2. Yet, over the years, Web2 has evolved into an ecosystem where freedom of expression is diminishing faster than ever. As a result, the collective internet is now grappling with censorship, misinformation, and toxicity.
The internet – intended to be open, transparent, and inclusive – has eventually come under the control of governments, authorities, and big tech companies that can manipulate the content that users see. This has resulted in widespread acts of harassment and abuse of vulnerable groups, as well as censorship and control of the information that is disseminated. In some countries, governments impose restrictions on social media networks or even control them entirely. Because of this, individuals are unable to freely express their thoughts and ideas or even raise their voices.
This has not only harmed the fundamentals of free speech and collaboration, the founding pillars upon which the World Wide Web rests, but it has also sidelined entire groups from engaging in global dialogues.
The Metaverse Promises a Paradigm Shift
So, how can the metaverse help users express themselves freely?
At the heart of the metaverse, we have disruptive technologies like blockchain, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), 3D modeling, and artificial intelligence (AI).
If we leave Extended Reality (XR) technologies like AR and VR aside for a moment, the core ethos of the metaverse revolves around blockchain technology. When we talk about blockchain technology, concepts like decentralization, privacy, inclusivity, and transparency come to mind.
Among them, decentralization is the key catalyst based on which the metaverse intends to offer a censorship-resistant ecosystem where freedom of expression takes center stage. On top of this, blockchain technology also ensures data security and privacy using novel technologies like Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) that allow users to fully control their personal data, who they share it with, how they share it, and how much of it they share.
The metaverse, thanks to the underlying technology, is the perfect place for representation and self-expression. Although there is no single definition of the metaverse, the ultimate goal is to build a community-focused, distributed, and decentralized ecosystem where users can seamlessly create digital avatars and interact.
In this context, it is vital to understand that censorship is prevalent across the Web2 realm because it is heavily centralized. By contrast, the metaverse is architecturally censorship-resistant because no single authority controls it. Multiple metaverses can be built atop different decentralized blockchain networks, each of which can interoperate with one another. Besides, all of the underlying data gets stored across a decentralized network of nodes, making it exceedingly difficult for authorities to censor information or control information flow.
Furthermore, the metaverse can also be used to create “safe spaces” for vulnerable and oppressed groups. For instance, one can create a metaverse for a select community and use NFTs as a gateway to ensure that only a certain number of people with the same mindset have access to it. Within this metaverse, each individual can freely express themselves, without the fear of reprisal, whether trolling, bans, demonetization, or cancelation. For instance, Meta (previously Facebook) recently shared a video during Pride Month 2022 showcasing the potential of the metaverse as a tool for increased freedom of expression.
With metaverse-as-a-service (MaaS) platforms like MetaMetaverse, building these “safe spaces” have become more accessible and affordable. Even without coding skills, anyone can use such platforms’ drag-and-drop tools and built-in element libraries to build and customize their metaverses representing their beliefs and opinions. They can even build sub-metaverses within these metaverses to empower more like-minded people and design themed games and interactive experiences revolving around similar interests, preferences, and beliefs.
Additionally, brands entering the metaverse must also ensure that they protect and promote freedom of expression because, unlike Web2, the metaverse doesn’t have any centralized control, thus no biased approach. Since everything on the metaverse is as transparent as it can be, brands can’t censor content they don’t agree with or push content that serves their interests.
To sum it up, the metaverse is seen as one of the most important inventions of the 21st century for its ability to create an environment where freedom of expression is possible for all. This freedom has been seen as one of humanity’s most essential attributes, which we should be fighting to protect. Thankfully, the metaverse has all the tools we need to regain our fundamental right to freedom of expression.