The Metaverse, an opportunity for society or terrorism?

Challenges in the field of prevention

by Sara Senno

Source: Government Technology Insider

1. Introduction

Nowadays, the world is moving at an unprecedented speed. Information is transmitted, exchanged, and recorded through a dense network woven by approximately five billion people. In telecommunications, for instance, technological evolution has made possible the transition from the mere transmission of voice via telephone to videoconferencing, in which social presence and spatial awareness are simultaneously shared in the same synthetic environment. More broadly, the acceleration in technological development - undoubtedly supported by restrictions on physical interaction due to the pandemic context - has allowed the large-scale diffusion of both Internet connection and tools that, used together, allow to go further by simulating a potentially infinite set of parallel worlds in which people can move through virtual alter egos (avatars): the Metaverse.

Among the users of this still undefined cosmos, the most represented age segment is the preadolescent and adolescent one, which corresponds to the most sensitive portion of the population to extremist narratives.

Considering the wide and proven use by terrorist organizations of web platforms and social networks to spread their propaganda, carry out terrorist financing activities, and recruit new followers, this analysis, after having framed in detail the concept of Metaverse and its declinations, aims to outline the vulnerabilities related to the risk of radicalization, financing, recruitment and use of this universe by the above-mentioned organizations and to identify the most significant measures to be taken to curb the threat.

2. What is the Metaverse?

Figure 1 – Virtual reality (source: Beacon)

The term, resulting from the crasis between the prefix “meta” (transcendent), and the word “universe”, first appeared in 1992 in “Snow Crash”, a fantasy novel written by Neal Stephenson, invented to name the virtual world in which the protagonist's avatar moves. The Metaverse, considered to be the next iteration of the internet, is a network of interconnected experiences and applications, devices and products, tools and infrastructure. More specifically, the Metaverse refers to an immersive version of virtual reality composed of a network of always-on synthetic environments, parallel to and integrated with the physical world. In it, users, through their avatars, can interact with each other and with digital objects and move from one virtual environment to another, experiencing heterogeneous activities in real-time, as in a sort of alternative life, parallel to the physical one[1].

3. Levels of integration between physical and virtual reality

The integration between physical and virtual reality is allowed by different technologies that provide various degrees of human involvement in the synthetic dimension, that are:

  • Augmented Reality