Human rights in today’s world is the ability of people to create empathy and tolerance towards the groups that are distant and different from us and respect their identity, culture, opinions, and rights. The emerging metaverse can play a significant role when shaping the empathy of humans and overall human rights existence in the real and virtual world. The new technology can make people emotionless towards abuses of avatars, or in contrast, immersive technology can increase empathy by placing us in the shoes of others. While one user may develop a real emotional attachment to his or her avatar, and through this avatar and different virtual situations grow the understanding of human differences and rights,
the others may take it just as a game and misuse the power.
In the real world, our human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination. (Source UN) One of the differences, however, one may argue, is that when you are tortured in real life, it is not quite the same as your avatar being tortured in virtual reality. Therefore, what would be a responsibility for such an action in the virtual world? Right now, the punishments for abuses in the virtual world are still limited. But if avatars are extensions of our own identity in the virtual world as they are meant to be, it would mean that our avatars should be protected from the torture of other avatars, they must not be discriminated against, they should be allowed to express their opinions among other rights. Similarly, abusers should be held accountable for their actions. There is not, yet, a full framework developed to grant us all rights and impose punishments for such actions. Large corporations are often criticized for caring mainly about engagement rates and users spending time on their platforms. However, even those large corporations are created by humans who have human rights and hopefully together with the public they push forward for the need to create a framework that will safeguard our avatar - human rights. Finally, a metaverse is just a tool, and we are all equally responsible for building a human rights-centric future.
Written by Michaela Jamelska