FIGAROVOX/TRIBUNE – If the metaverse is a means of promoting citizens’ participation in democratic life, authoritarian regimes can mediate it for purposes of political manipulation, analyzes lawyer Laure-Alice Bouvier.
Laure-Alice Bouvier is a lawyer and doctor of jurisprudence at the Paris Bar.
A completely new, virtual universe, the metaverse, is quietly and enthusiastically being built in the shadow of worries, even the worries of the physical world. Concerns are linked to the ongoing health crisis, the upheavals caused by the recent war in Ukraine, and suddenly accelerating global warming.
In this context, the metaverse and its many components can be a place of refuge or escape for populations in search of existential security. Better yet, will not this new world under construction transcend the limits of the physical world in all aspects, including political governance? Will he not be able to fundamentally change the political models established centuries ago in different continents?
The Metaverse can really disrupt the way we think about politics. By abolishing physical borders, it goes beyond the phenomenon of deterritorialization, the migration of individuals and companies. It introduces societies to the a-territorial and hyper-ephemeral universe as it is constantly evolving.
While a new economic model based on digital platforms is already well established, a new political model is now in power. A model that should be positive in many ways, but has the risk of a downside…
The Metaverse is undoubtedly a carrier of potential for better relations between nations and better democracy. As it includes a variety of devices (for example with virtual or augmented reality) especially suitable for effective communication, it contributes to better understanding and easier cooperation between states. We can see in it the promise of a more peaceful world, without clinging to utopia.
It would be all that democracy would gain from it. Local, national or international political debates can become more fluid. This would be a unique opportunity to allow discussions without physical limitations, not restricted by time frame or geographical frame. Metaverse may become the ultimate tool of self-seeking participatory democracy today. In doing so, citizens are offered new ways to participate in the determination of public policy.
Expressing one’s point of view or proposals directly in real time through an augmented or even direct virtual reality mode seems like a way to build a new political model.
Laure Alice Bouvier
Directly sharing one’s point of view or proposals in real time through an augmented or even direct virtual reality mode seems like a way to build a new political model. In this way, communication can be established directly between voters and elected officials and in the political process in a perfectly comprehensive way. Thus, the metaverse will provide easier access to the political world. This would encourage citizen participation not only in elections but also in political party meetings. It would also open up a new way of running an election campaign. An important aspect would be a significant reduction in campaign costs.Likewise, by building public finance management through the automated devices of blockchain and smart contracts, voter trust can be restored. These procedures would falsify the governance process and would be an effective way to fight corruption and increase transparency in the use of public funds.
We can also imagine on a social level that strikes and demonstrations will intensify, so that it will be easier to gather many sympathizers within a borderless movement. When the damage and violence that tarnished their credibility on the sidelines of the marches was removed, the claims could be heard and understood more clearly.
However, we must not forget the risks posed by a still new universe where everything has to be done, especially on the political and legal level, as the Internet was idealized in the early 1990s. As seen in social media, there is real danger in the metaverse of it being used maliciously to influence, indoctrinate and create hate-driven communities. Samples are now available.
Moreover, in the context of multiple crises, the dominant person may fear the development of extremist communities in the metaverse. Roblox, one of the first metaverse platforms animated by very young and very impressionable internet users, has been hijacked by a far-right group.
The use of data can be used as a tool of political manipulation.
Laure Alice Bouvier
Furthermore, one wonders how a totalitarian regime could choose to send political messages based on emotional responses to visual and auditory stimuli. When fear is one of the emotions used to attract voters in political campaigns, the impact of the metaverse can be devastating. Immersive experiences, their emotional impact can be intense and even traumatic and can lead to irrational behavior.
One could also imagine resorting to the illusion of a nuclear explosion, the realism of which could be as much a deterrent as it is intended to terrorize the population. A completely reasonable assumption in the current economic war against the background of the nuclear threat. In the same sense, the use of data can be used as a tool of political manipulation. The culmination will be the creation of avatars that will represent activists with precise knowledge of them, and especially their biometric data that can fool their environment.
Politics with the Metaverse therefore faces a major challenge.