acebook Inc has announced that the company will be investing $50 million to partner with organizations to responsibly build a ‘metaverse’ - a digital world where people can use different devices to move and communicate in a virtual world.
The company has been criticized over its impact on online safety, however, the new XR Programs and Research Fund will invest the money globally over two years to ensure metaverse technologies are "built in a way that's inclusive and empowering," Facebook said.
Facebook has stated that it plans to work with researchers across four areas including data privacy and safety, to allow users to get help if something they see in the metaverse makes them uncomfortable.
The company will also research how to design technologies that are inclusive and accessible to all users, and also "encourage competition" in the nascent industry.
Facebook has a lot of barriers to overcome, considering the company has faced scrutiny on a wide range of internet issues, such as the spread of disinformation and social media's negative impact on teens.
Facebook has also said it paused development on Instagram Kids, an app that would have provided age-appropriate content for kids under 13. U.S. lawmakers and advocacy groups have cited safety concerns and urged Facebook to drop the launch plans.
A Facebook executive will testify on Thursday at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on the impact of its Instagram app on young users' mental health.
Initial partners for Facebook's new metaverse fund include Howard University in Washington D.C., which will research the history of diversity in the information technology industry and how it could shape opportunity in the metaverse. Seoul National University and the University of Hong Kong will research safety, ethics and responsible design, Facebook said.