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Meta Adds New ‘Mature’ Content Classifications for Horizon Worlds

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The metaverse is set to be a more engaging, more immersive, more consuming space than the current online and social media app environments. Which, on one hand, can facilitate wholly new experiences, which will be transformative in many respects. But on the other, that also means that many of the problems that are common within the current social media landscape will be amplified even more, including bullying, harassment, and even more forms of abuse, which could feel even harder to escape from within more enclosed digital spaces.

Meta’s already been forced to get ahead of this, with new personal boundary zones in VR and mute options to limit unwanted interactions.

Its next step on this front is a new ‘mature audiences’ content rating process for Horizon Worlds, its VR creation engine, which, eventually, will become a central element in its broader metaverse development.

As reported by Upload VR:

“Meta signposted the change in an email sent out to Horizon Worlds users, indicating that creators need to apply a content rating to their worlds to show whether it is appropriate for all ages or only for mature users (age 18 and over). If creators take no action and do not update their existing worlds within the next month, then those worlds “will default to 18+ regardless of the content in the world.”

Meta’s updated ‘Horizon Mature Worlds’ policy outlines exactly what is and is not acceptable within its VR environment.

Meta says that all worlds which include the following elements will now be considered ‘mature’ content:

  • Content that is sexually suggestive; for example, near nudity, depictions of people in implied or suggestive positions, or an environment focused on activities that are overly suggestive.
  • Worlds that are dedicated to or have a core focus on the promotion of marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, or age-regulated activities (including gambling).
  • Intense or excessively violent fictional content, including blood and gore, that could shock or disgust users.

Note that Meta also doesn’t allow sexually explicit material, content that depicts the use of illegal drugs, content that promotes criminal activity, or real life depictions of violence within its VR environment.

Though ‘Drunkn Bar Fight’ is evidently okay:

So, its rules against ‘realistic’ depictions of violence may be a little more flexible than you’d think.

It’s an important step for Meta, because based on past experiences with video games and other forms of immersive engagement, there are going to be significant concerns about the broader impacts of VR use, and how that may translate over to real world actions.

Grand Theft Auto, for example, has been cited as a key element in the normalization of violence, in various forms. Long before that, games like Doom were blamed for harmful impulses in youngsters who’d spend so much time trapped in these immersive 3D worlds that the lines between digital fiction and reality started to blur.

You can imagine, then, that far more realistic, far more immersive VR experiences are going to be tagged with the same, and whether there proves to be a real link between the two or not, Meta will need to tread carefully, and implement protection measures proactively to limit potential harms.

Horizon Worlds enables users to create their own VR environments, with objects and tools available to build your own places and experiences. Eventually, that platform will be filled with all sorts of 3D items and options, and the view is that this will eventually form the basis of the broader metaverse shift, establishing a home for millions, even billions, of unique experience, created by people all around the world, that will facilitate interaction and engagement in totally new ways.

But protection is key. Meta can’t ‘move fast and break things’ like it used to, we now have more knowledge as to the impacts that digital experience can have, and Meta needs to factor these in, as best it can, while also matching that with the acceleration of its metaverse push.

I’m not sure that many will have much faith in Meta taking a more measured, careful approach in this sense, but the VR experience is evolving fast, and these elements are critical considerations.

Horizon World users can locate the new rating option in the ‘World’ tab in Build mode.

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Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

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Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

Correction: February 2, 2023 This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how much Meta expected to spend on its deal with the virtual reality start-up Within. It is $400 million, not $400 billion. Meta’s stock surged on Thursday …

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Well, this is certainly problematic.

Twitter has announced that, as of February 9th, it’s cutting off free access to its API, which is the access point that many, many apps, bot accounts, and other tools use to function.

That means that a heap of Twitter analytics apps, management tools, schedulers, automated updates – a range of key info and insight options will soon cease to function. Which seems like the sort of thing that, if you were Twitter, you’d want to keep on your app.

But that’s not really how Twitter 2.0 is looking to operate – in a bid to rake in as much revenue as absolutely possible, in any way that it can, Twitter will now look to charge all of these apps and tools. But most, I’d hazard a guess, will simply cease to function.

The bigger business apps already pay for full API access – your Hootsuite’s and your Sprout Social’s – so they’ll likely be unaffected. But it could stop them from offering free plans, which would have a big impact on their business models.

The announcement follows Twitter’s recent API change which cut off a heap of Twitter posting tools, in order, seemingly, to stop users accessing the platform through a third-party UI. 

Now, even more Twitter tools will go extinct, a broad spread of apps and functions that contribute to the real-time ecosystem that Twitter has become. Their loss, if that’s what happens, will have big impacts on overall Twitter activity.

On the other hand, some will see this as another element in Twitter’s crackdown on bots, which Twitter chief Elon Musk has made a personal mission to eradicate. Musk has taken some drastic measures to kill off bots, some of which are having an impact, but Musk himself has also admitted that such efforts are reducing overall platform engagement

This, too, could be a killer in this respect

It’ll also open the door to Twitter competitors, as many automated update apps will switch to other platforms. This relates to things like updates on downtime from video games, weather apps, and more. There are also tools like GIF generators and auto responders – there’s a range of tools that could now look for a new home on Mastodon, or some other Twitter replicant. 

In this respect, it seems like a flawed move, which is also largely ignorant of how the developer community has facilitated Twitter’s growth. 

But Elon and Co. are going to do things their own way, whether outside commentators agree or not – and maybe this is actually a path to gaining new Twitter data customers, and boosting the company’s income. 

But I doubt it.

If there are any third-party Twitter apps that you use, it’ll be worth checking in to see if they’re impacted before next week.



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Meta ‘Year of Efficiency’ call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

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Meta 'Year of Efficiency' call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., center, departs from federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With one simple slogan, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg temporarily quelled investor discontent with his company’s multibillion-dollar investment into the futuristic metaverse.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we’re focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organization,” Zuckerberg said as part of the release of Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

Following a 64% plunge in Meta’s share price in 2022, Wall Street cheered the report, sending the stock up almost 20%, extending a rally that began late last year. Based on after-hours pricing, Meta is trading at its highest since July.

Growth is not what’s getting investors excited. Meta reported better-than-expected revenue in the fourth quarter, but sales still sank 4% from a year earlier, marking the third straight quarterly decline. And the forecast range for the first quarter suggests that year-over-year revenue could increase, but it could also fall again.

Rather, Zuckerberg’s commitment to cost cuts and efficiency is a sign that increasing profitability is important to Meta, which was known as a growth machine prior to last year’s slump.

“The first 18 years I think we grew it 20%, 30% compound or a lot more every year,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “And then obviously that changed very dramatically in 2022, where our revenue was negative for growth, for the first time in the company’s history.”

In looking to the future, Zuckerberg struck a realistic tone.

“We don’t anticipate that that’s going to continue,” he said, regarding the recent drop in revenue. “But I also don’t think it’s going to go back to the way it was before.”

Meta lowered its estimates for total expenses in 2023 to be in the range of $89 billion to $95 billion, down from its prior outlook of $94 billion to $100 billion. In November, the company announced it would lay off over 11,000 workers, or 13% of its staff.

Zuckerberg said Meta will be more “proactive on cutting projects that aren’t performing or may no longer be crucial” and that it will emphasize “removing layers of middle management to make decisions faster.”

Meta is also reducing spending as it builds new data centers that are intended to be more efficient while still able to power the company’s various artificial intelligence technologies. Capital expenditures are now expected to be in the range of $30 billion to $33 billion for 2023 instead of $34 billion to $37 billion.

Zuckerberg is selling investors on a story they want to hear, acknowledging that the company got bloated and needed more financial discipline. One of Zuckerberg’s top deputies, technology chief Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, wrote a personal essay just a few days ago echoing that sentiment.

Still, Meta has plenty of challenges ahead, in terms of both costs and reviving its core ad business.

Meta’s Reality Labs unit, which is responsible for developing the nascent metaverse, lost $13.7 billion in 2022. Finance chief Susan Li told analysts that the company isn’t planning for any reduction in that unit anytime soon. Zuckerberg still sees it as the company’s future.

Digital advertising, meanwhile, is suffering from a struggling economy, and Li gave no indication that companies are planning to dramatically increase their spending in 2023.

Meta has also yet to recover from Apple’s 2021 iOS privacy update that made it harder to target users with ads. Li said the company has been improving its online advertising system, but Apple’s update is “still certainly an absolute headwind to our revenue number.”

During the question and answer part of the call, Zuckerberg was asked about Meta’s progress in generative artificial intelligence, which has become the latest hot thing in Silicon Valley. His answer indicated that Meta is pursuing opportunities there, but will be cautious in how quickly it proceeds. Running these programs is expensive, and Meta needs to ensure it can develop them affordably, he said.

Zuckerberg said that while Meta is researching how best to incorporate the new technology, he wants “to be careful not to get too ahead of the development of it.”

Correction: Meta’s earnings report and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments occurred after the market close on Wednesday. An earlier version misstated the day.

WATCH: Meta grows in daily active users, shares pop on revenue beat

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