The metaverse offers a future full of potential – for terrorists and extremists, too
The metaverse is coming. Like all technological innovation, it brings new opportunities and new risks.
The metaverse is an immersive virtual reality version of the internet where people can interact with digital objects and digital representations of themselves and others, and can move more or less freely from one virtual environment to another. It can also involve augmented reality, a blending of virtual and physical realities, both by representing people and objects from the physical world in the virtual and conversely by bringing the virtual into people’s perceptions of physical spaces.
By donning virtual reality headsets or augmented reality glasses, people will be able to socialize, worship and work in environments where the boundaries between environments and between the digital and physical are permeable. In the metaverse, people will be able to find meaning and have experiences in concert with their offline lives.
Therein lies the rub. When people learn to love something, whether it is digital, physical or a combination, taking that thing from them can cause emotional pain and suffering. To put a finer point on it, the things people hold dear become vulnerabilities that can be exploited by those seeking to cause harm. People with malicious intent are already noting that the metaverse is a potential tool in their arsenal.
To be clear, we do not oppose the metaverse as a concept and, indeed, are excited about its potential for human advancement. But we believe that the rise of the metaverse will open new vulnerabilities and present novel opportunities to exploit them. Although not exhaustive, here are three ways the metaverse will complicate efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism.
First, online recruitment and engagement are hallmarks of modern extremism, and the metaverse threatens to expand this capacity by making it easier for people to meet up. Today, someone interested in hearing what Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes has to say might read an article about his anti-government ideology or watch a video of him speaking to followers about impending martial law. Tomorrow, by blending artificial intelligence and augmented reality in the metaverse, Rhodes or his AI stand-in will be able to sit on a virtual park bench with any number of potential followers and entice them with visions of the future….