Facebook plans to hire 10,000 people in the European Union over the next five years to help build its so-called metaverse, the company announced on Monday, as the company is keen to shift focus to its next big technological bet while it faces major questions about its handling of content and personal data both in Europe and other parts of the world.
In a blog post on Monday, Facebook said it plans to create 10,000 new “high-skilled jobs” in the EU to work on its next computing platform.
Facebook has defined the metaverse as a set of virtual spaces where people can interact and engage with others who aren’t in the same physical space as them via virtual reality.
The company said that the investment was a “vote of confidence” in the strength of Europe’s tech industry and added that the region—where it has faced closed scrutiny—will help shape its metaverse right from the start.
In a likely effort to assuage any regulatory concerns, Facebook notes that the metaverse “won’t be built overnight by a single company” and like the internet, it will be open and interoperable, without offering additional details.
Acknowledging the EU’s regulatory efforts, Facebook also praised European lawmakers for embedding values like free expression, privacy, transparency and individual rights into the internet and noted that it shared these values.
$50 million. That’s the amount Facebook recently announced it intends to spend to help “build the metaverse responsibly.” The money will be spent over two years through its XR Programs and Research Fund, with plans to work with other organizations, nonprofits, academic institutions, and governments.
Facebook’s metaverse—touted by the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg to be an expansive, immersive digital world that will be connected through virtual reality (VR)—is the company’s next big technological bet as it looks to expand its VR offerings. In July, Facebook’s Chief Financial Officer David Wehner said work on the augmented and virtual reality technology needed to power a metaverse will cost the company several billion dollars. The ambitious project is being led by Andrew Bosworth, the head of Facebook’s Reality Labs, who has said that he hopes to create experiences that would seamlessly allow users to switch between the physical and virtual world.
Critics have dismissed Facebook’s push to embrace the metaverse as a bid to distract from several ongoing problems plaguing the company. Earlier this month former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Congress where she outlined a number of alleged issues at the company including its reluctance to change its algorithm to slow misinformation. Last month, the Wall Street Journal published an investigative report citing internal studies at Facebook that found that its photo-sharing platform Instagram has harmful effects on a significant portion of its millions of young users—particularly teenage girls.
Are We in the Metaverse Yet? (New York Times)