Second Life on the Hill: U.S. House Members Seek to Understand Virtual Worlds

April 01 2008 / by Marisa Vitols / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Metaverse   Year: 2008   Rating: 10 Hot

The following is a summary of the key moments that transpired during the U.S. House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet hearing on Virtual Worlds held April 1, 2008. This marked the first ever simulcast of a Congressional hearing into a virtual world – a truly historic moment.

Spanning the positive uses of virtual worlds (entrepreneurial, non-profit, educational, and other purposes) as well as the security implications (terrorism, child protection, privacy and illegal activities) the first-of-its-kind hearing finally came to a close at 11:15 AM this morning after nearly two full hours of position statements and riveting Q&A.

Subcommittee members’ opening speeches covered general statistics, implications, applications and potential futures of virtual worlds. Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey of Massachusetts (pictured second) noted that virtual worlds often permit people to do things that are often impossible in real life, thus empowering individuals and that virtual worlds are at the cutting edge of web 2.0 applications. As per the future of virtual worlds, the Chairman said that virtual worlds are steadily becoming more commonplace and therefore policymakers will have to continue to monitor them as they grow further while upgrading national infrastructure to foster the positive utilities of such worlds.

Congressman Stearns of Florida (pictured third) cited an interesting statistic in his opening remarks, that 40% of men and 50% of women see virtual friends as equal or better than their real-life friends. He found this a bit unsettling, and elucidated his concern for sexual predators and con-men inevitably finding their way into virtual worlds, as they did the internet.

Congresswoman Harman of California echoed many of the same positive implications of virtual worlds, but seemed most concerned with the use of virtual worlds by Islamic militants, noting that a “clear-eyed understanding is essential” in helping fight this new wave of “transient terrorism.”

(cont.)

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