FIGAROVOX/TRIBUNE – If the metaverse is a tool to promote the participation of citizens in democratic life, authoritarian regimes can instrumentalize it for the purposes of political manipulation, analyzes the lawyer Laure-Alice Bouvier.
Laure-Alice Bouvier is a lawyer at the Paris Bar and a doctor of law.
An entirely new, virtual universe, the metaverse, is quietly and enthusiastically being built in the shadow of the concerns, even anxieties, of the physical world.. Concerns are related to the health crisis that has not ended, the shocks due to the war in Ukraine that have just begun, and global warming that has suddenly accelerated.
In this context, the metaverse and its many components may well represent a refuge or an escape for populations in search of existential security. Better yet, will not this new world under construction transcend the boundaries of the physical world in all its aspects, including those of political governance? Will it not be able to fundamentally transform the political models whose foundations were built centuries ago on different continents?
The Metaverse can really upset the way we think about politics. By removing physical borders, it goes beyond the phenomenon of deterritorialization, of nomadism of individuals and companies. It places societies in an a-territorial and hyper-ephemeral universe because it is constantly evolving.
While a new economic model is already well established on the basis of digital platforms, a new political model is now in power. A model which from many aspects should be positive but with the risk of a negative return…
The metaverse is definitely a bearer of the potential for good relations between states as well as for the better establishment of democracy. Because it includes various devices conducive to particularly efficient communication (for example with virtual or augmented reality), it promotes better understanding and easier cooperation between states. Without slipping into utopia, we can see in it the promise of a more peaceful world.
Democracy would also have everything to gain from it. Local, national or international political debates can take a much more fluid form. This would be a unique opportunity to allow discussions without physical limitations that would not be limited by a time frame or a geographical frame. The metaverse can become the ultimate tool of a participatory democracy that is searching for itself today. With it, citizens are offered new methods to participate in the determination of public policies.
Expressing one’s point of view or proposals directly in real time through an augmented or even live virtual reality modality seems to be a way to build a new political model.
Laure Alice Bouvier
Expressing one’s point of view or proposals directly in real time through an augmented or even live virtual reality modality seems to be a way to build a new political model. Thus, communication can be created directly between voters and elected officials and in a completely inclusive way in the political process. The Metaverse would thus allow easier access to the political world. He would encourage the participation of citizens not only in the elections, but also in the discussions of the political parties. This would also open up a new way of conducting an electoral campaign. An important aspect would be a significant reduction in campaign costs.In the same way, voter trust can be regained by establishing the management of public finances through automated blockchain devices and smart contracts. These procedures would make the management process unfalsifiable and would be an effective way to fight corruption and for greater transparency in the use of public funds.
We can also imagine, at the social level, that strikes and demonstrations will be reinforced because it should be easier to gather many sympathizers within a movement without borders. The claims could be heard and understood more when the damage and violence on the periphery of the processions that tarnished their credibility disappeared.
However, in the same way that the Internet was idealized in the early 1990s, we must not forget the dangers posed by a still young universe in which everything has to be done, especially at the political and legal level. There is a real danger in the metaverse of its immersion being used in a harmful way to influence, indoctrinate and create hate-fueled communities as seen on social media. Examples already exist.
Moreover, favored by a context of multiple crises, one may fear the development of extremist communities in the metaverse. One of the first metaverse platforms, Roblox, animated by very young and very impressionable internet users, was taken over by a far-right group.
The use of data can be used as a tool for political manipulation.
Laure Alice Bouvier
Moreover, one might wonder how a totalitarian regime could choose to send political messages based on emotional responses to visual and auditory stimuli. When fear is known to be one of the emotions used in political campaigns to attract voters, the impact of the metaverse can be devastating. Immersive experiences, their emotional effects, can be very intense or even traumatic and lead to irrational behavior.
One could also imagine resorting to the illusion of a nuclear explosion, the realism of which could be as compelling as the intent to strike terror among populations. A completely plausible hypothesis in the current context of the economic war against a background of the nuclear threat. In the same sense, the use of data can be used as a tool for political manipulation. The culmination would be the creation of avatars that would represent activists that would have accurate knowledge about them and in particular their biometric data that could spoof their environment.
With the metaverse, politics thus faces a colossal challenge.