British police open investigation into an in-game sexual assault in a virtual reality metaverse


Virtual reality games are intensely immersive, putting their players into their worlds and surrounding them in the experience rather convincingly. Unfortunately, that immersion has been used for disgusting purposes to harm an underage girl who suffered an in-game “gang rape” by several adult men in an online metaverse title.

The name of the victim and the game itself have not been released, and obviously the girl has not suffered any physical injuries, but UK police say that she exhibits the same emotional and mental trauma as rape victims who have been physically assaulted. The victim is confirmed to be below the age of 16.

The case itself is noted as the first of its kind, but according to insider reports, it’s not the first time these events have occurred. According to one officer, metaverse games such as Meta’s Horizon Worlds are “rife” with sexual offenses, but prosecution has been challenging because of the blurring of geographical boundaries and the resultant jurisdiction, while the UK’s Sexual Offenses Act defines sexual assault as the physical touching of another person sexually without their consent.

“The kind of behavior described has no place on our platform, which is why for all users we have an automatic protection called personal boundary, which keeps people you don’t know a few feet away from you,” said a Meta spokesperson.

However, that’s not enough for many, and calls for more legislation are being raised. “We need to update our laws because they have not kept pace with the risks of harm that are developing from artificial intelligence and offending on platforms like the metaverse,” says Association of Police and Crime Commissioners chairman Donna Jones. “The government needs to look at changing the law to protect women and children from harm in these virtual environments.”

The virtual rape has refreshed alarms among the country’s police officers, police organizations, and safety orgs about refining and releasing laws that help to protect users from the wave of cybercrime possible in virtual metaverses, including virtual robbery, ransomware, fraud, and identity theft, while the only law that has been written that takes modern times into account has been last October’s UK Online Safety Act.

Meanwhile in the US, multiple states are hoping to release similar laws like the UK’s act in 2024 after earlier attempts at legislation were legally stonewalled by the tech industry.

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