Virtual gang rape reported in the Metaverse; probe underway

British authorities are grappling with the investigation of an alleged gang rape that occurred within the realm of a virtual reality (VR) game, the New York Post reported

January 04, 2024 01:35 pm | Updated 01:35 pm IST

Virtual gang rape reported in the Metaverse.

Virtual gang rape reported in the Metaverse. | Photo Credit: AP

British authorities are grappling with the investigation of an alleged gang rape that occurred within the realm of a virtual reality (VR) game, the New York Post reported

The victim, a girl under 16, was wearing a VR headset, immersed in a game where her animated avatar was subject to a virtual assault by several men.

Although physically unharmed, the victim may have experienced psychological trauma akin to a real-life assault, shedding light on the potential emotional repercussions of metaverse crimes.

The world first case has raised eyebrows over the inadequacy of existing laws in addressing virtual offences.

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UK authorities fear the limitations of prosecuting the accused under current legislation, which narrowly defines sexual assault as physical contact without consent.

This predicament prompts a crucial debate on whether law enforcement resources should be diverted to investigate virtual crimes, especially given the substantial backlog of in-person rape cases.

Despite these concerns, UK Home Secretary James Cleverly staunchly defends the investigation, emphasizing the profound impact on the victim’s psyche.

“I know it is easy to dismiss this as being not real, but the whole point of these virtual environments is they are incredibly immersive,” said UK Home Secretary James Cleverly, as reported by the New York Post.

He argues that those willing to commit such atrocities in a virtual space may pose tangible threats in the physical world.

Ian Critchley, lead for child protection and abuse investigation at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, echoes Cleverly’s sentiments, emphasizing the metaverse as a potential gateway for predators targeting children.

Critchley calls for an evolution in policing methods, the enactment of relevant laws, and increased responsibility from tech companies to ensure user safety in the evolving landscape of virtual interactions.

While reports of virtual crimes, including sexual offences, have surfaced on platforms like Horizon Worlds operated by Meta, there have been no prosecutions in the UK thus far.

As the metaverse becomes a breeding ground for online crimes, law enforcement faces the daunting task of adapting to this new frontier, ensuring justice for victims and deterring potential real-world dangers lurking in the shadows of virtual realms.

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