Beyond the Corporate Responsibility to Respect in the Dawn of a Metaverse

41 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2022 Last revised: 5 Jan 2023

Date Written: February 25, 2022

Abstract

Technological advances in the 21st century pose new threats to human rights from business activities. In this new technological age, individuals and communities engage through an increasing myriad of digital means and platforms, all facilitated by a smaller, more powerful set of global BigTech companies, such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Meta (formerly known as Facebook). In so doing, however, our lives as workers, consumers, and citizens become subject to increasing corporate control through surveillance capitalism and algorithmic governance. With the dawn of metaverses – 3D immersive digital environments in which you can interact with others via avatars and through virtual and augmented reality – upon us, some commentators anticipate that BigTech control over our (digital) lives could be all-consuming. Given the negative impacts and threats to human rights resulting from the current dominance of BigTech companies, it is not difficult to imagine how we could be at the beginning of a ‘Ready Player One’ dystopian reality: ensconced in digital, state-like walled gardens that are controlled by a handful of companies wielding sovereign-like authority. This would challenge theoretical foundations underpinning the operation of international human rights law and how corporations are considered within it. As such, it is important to revisit the adequacy of governance frameworks for the protection of human rights in a truly digital age. In so doing, the article questions how we can understand corporate responsibility in relation to human rights in digital milieux, it discusses the adequacy of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, and it posits that we should consider a corporate responsibility to respect and protect (digital) human rights. The article also engages with the interesting tangential development of web2 vs web3 realities, and argues that the distinction at present does not negate the force of the arguments presented towards considering a corporate responsibility to protect human rights in a metaverse.

Keywords: Business and Human Rights; Metaverse: BigTech; International Human Rights Law; Technology; Corporate Responsibility to Respect; Digital Rights; web2; web3

Suggested Citation

Charamba, Kuzi, Beyond the Corporate Responsibility to Respect in the Dawn of a Metaverse (February 25, 2022). University of Miami International & Comparative Law Review, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2022, University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2022/14, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4043254 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4043254

Kuzi Charamba (Contact Author)

University of Hong Kong ( email )

Faculty of Law, Pokfulam Road
Pokfulam
Hong Kong
Hong Kong

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