Facebook is creating 10,000 jobs in the EU as part of its push to build a virtual world for its users.
The company has trumpeted the “metaverse” as the next big phase of growth for large tech companies and recently announced a $50m (£36m) investment programme to ensure that this metaworld is built “responsibly”.
Facebook and other tech firms envision the metaverse as a world where people lead their social and professional lives virtually, via virtual reality headsets such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift, and through augmented reality where a digital layer is placed on top of real life, such as the popular Pokémon Go game. The company envisages an interconnected web of metaverses, as users step from Facebook’s realm seamlessly into an adjoining world created by other tech firms such as Google, Apple or a big video games publisher.
In a blogpost announcing the hiring drive, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, said Europeans will play an important role in shaping the metaverse. Clegg said developing an inhabitable VR and AR world would require continued investment in talent across the business.
“So today, we’re announcing a plan to create 10,000 new high-skilled jobs within the EU over the next five years,” Clegg said. “This investment is a vote of confidence in the strength of the European tech industry and the potential of European tech talent.”
Clegg cited Germany’s work on mRNA vaccines and Sweden’s progress towards becoming a cashless society as examples of the continent’s tech prowess. Facebook also invests in tech research in Europe, including an artificial intelligence research lab in France and research into virtual reality and augmented reality in Cork, Ireland.
The statement also referred to the EU’s status as an influential regulator of new internet ventures. This month the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said the mass outage on Facebook’s platforms, which affected billions of users worldwide, showed the dangers of relying on only a few big tech players.
“European policymakers are leading the way in helping to embed European values like free expression, privacy, transparency and the rights of individuals into the day-to-day workings of the internet,” Clegg said.
Facebook is developing its metaverse strategy against a backdrop of further regulatory and political pressure on both sides of the Atlantic after a series of document leaks by a whistleblower, Frances Haugen. Haugen has accused Facebook of putting “astronomical profits before people” and has released documents, which formed the basis of a number of revelations in the Wall Street Journal, including an article showing that Facebook was aware its Instagram platform damaged the mental health of some teenage girls. Facebook has described the WSJ revelations about Instagram as a “mischaracterisation” of its research.
Last month the company announced a $50m investment programme to ensure the metaverse meets regulatory and legal concerns, with the money distributed among organisations and academic institutions such as Seoul National University and Women in Immersive Tech.