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Walmart Removes Advergame From Roblox After Consumer Pressure

Legal director Laura Smith said, ‘TINA is always pleased when deceptive marketing is removed or corrected, particularly when it impacts a vulnerable population such as young children’

Multinational retail corporation Walmart has taken down its Universe of Play advergame from the Roblox platform six months after it arrived in the wake of action taken by a coalition of advocacy groups led by ad watchdog and nonprofit organisation Truth In Advertising (TINA).

In January, TINA along with Fairplay, Center for Digital Democracy and the National Association of Consumer Advocates, notified Walmart, as well as the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) that the game, which bore a certification seal from the self-regulatory group’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Safe Harbor Program, was exposing children to deceptive marketing on Roblox.

The advocacy groups warned in its January letter that the metaverse game, featuring ads, virtual products and characters from Paw Patrol, Jurassic World, L.O.L. Surprise! and more, not only blurred the distinction between advertising content and organic content but also lacked required disclosures and manipulated kids into viewing and interacting with stealth ads.

In a follow-up letter sent to CARU, the groups, including Common Sense Media, expressed ongoing concern regarding the self-regulatory group’s COPPA compliance program.

The letter warned that Walmart’s Universe of Play demonstrates how CARU has impermissibly expanded its COPPA Safe Harbor Program to include a broader advertising safe harbour, thereby deceptively giving the misimpression that company advertising misconduct is shielded from FTC review.

Legislation in the metaverse

Laura Smith, legal director at TINA said, “TINA is always pleased when deceptive marketing is removed or corrected, particularly when it impacts a vulnerable population such as young children. It is unfortunate, however, the deception ever existed in the first place and we urge CARU to do everything it can to prevent this type of wrongdoing from happening again in the future.”

The metaverse has the potential to become revolutionary and from what we’ve seen so far, the metaverse can change our lives in a lot of ways. Policy-makers have yet to implement effective legislation within the space and although Interpol is investigating how it can police crime in the metaverse, there are currently no stringent laws in the nascent space.

TINA has also filed a complaint targeted at Roblox to the FTC for failing to establish meaningful guardrails to ensure compliance with truth in advertising laws on its platform. After the filing last year, Roblox has now recently made substantive changes to its advertising guidelines.

Written By

Isa Muhammad is a writer and video game journalist covering many aspects of entertainment media including the film industry. He's steadily writing his way to the sharp end of journalism and enjoys staying informed. If he's not reading, playing video games or catching up on his favourite TV series, then he's probably writing about them.

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