Sir Nick Clegg is Facebook's public affairs chief

Sir Nick Clegg has promised that Facebook will work with regulators to make its “metaverse” safe for children as it puts tens of billions of dollars into the technology.

The company’s head of global affairs and communications said technology companies often “feel that progress can’t wait for the slower pace of regulation”, but said it would not ignore privacy and safety in developing a suite of new products that it regards as the tech giant’s future.

On Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was rebranding its corporate identity as “Meta”, which it said was a reflection that the company is moving beyond the social network of the same name.

The scandal-hit social network is seeking to move beyond concerns about child safety and hate speech to focus on the metaverse, which the billionaire described as an “immersive” internet based on technology such as virtual reality.

In an exchange with Mr Zuckerberg, Sir Nick said creating the technologies responsibly meant being “transparent about how things work, what data is collected and how that data is used over time”. 

“It also means giving people easy to use safety controls as well as age guidance and parental controls for when youngsters are using these products,” he said.

Mr Zuckerberg has said it will take years to build the metaverse, in which people will attend office meetings, concerts and social events virtually, as a hologram or virtual avatar.

Sir Nick, who runs Facebook’s lobbying and government work, said it wanted to avoid being accused of developing the technology without considering its consequences.

“The way I look at it, in the past the speed at which new technologies emerged sometimes left policymakers and regulators playing catch up,” the former deputy prime minister said. 

“On the one hand companies get accused of charging ahead too quickly and on the other, tech people feel that progress can’t wait for the slower pace of regulation. I really think that it doesn’t have to be the case this time round because we have years until the metaverse we envision is fully realised, this is the start of the journey not the end.”

Mr Zuckerberg has said the technology is five to 10 years away from being ready for mass use.