Metaverse experts reveal if you can murder in the virtual world





“Murder” in the metaverse isn’t a 25-life sentence — or even a felony — but it could be a felony, some legal experts say.

The Sun spoke with two attorneys, who have written about crime in the Metaverse, and a former Manhattan prosecutor turned law professor about violence in the virtual world and whether they can be prosecuted.

Two of the three experts said violent crimes like murder, rape, or assault in the metaverse can arguably be speech-related charges like threatening, stalking, or stalking.

It comes down to the wording of the laws as they are currently written, experts say.

They’re written to protect “real, living people,” said John Bandler, who teaches cybersecurity and cybercrime at Elisabeth Haub New York School of Law at Pace University.

The law is not intended to protect avatars or software codes, which populate the metaverse.

“I would see it more as a speech or an expression; less like a physical act against a person,” Bandler said.

“Then we can analyze whether that speech or expression is permitted, protected, or not.”

This argument feeds into the broader First Amendment societal debate over what speech is protected, what is not, and what can be sued.

“All the trolls, virtual bullying, threats and bad behavior online happen all the time. It’s nothing new and it will happen in the metaverse,” said Greg Pryor, attorney at Reed Law Firm Smith LLP.

“But if I say something racist or abuse someone because of their race, religion or sexuality, you can potentially be sued.”

UNSPECIFIED - MARCH 24: General views of Metaverse Fashion Week on March 24, 2022 in UNSPECIFIED, Unspecified.  Metaverse Fashion Week MVFW is hosted by virtual world Decentraland and is the first experimental virtual fashion week.
Crime laws protect “real, living people,” not the avatars, who populate the metaverse, an expert has said.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

A third expert – Patrick Roberts, of the Roberts Law Group – said it would be difficult to prosecute a usually anonymous user and prove that the user committed the act.

The consequences will likely be some sort of virtual punishment, such as disabling or restricting a user’s avatar, he said.

“And the person who used the avatar for virtual violence could be restricted or blocked from access for a period of time, perhaps,” the North Carolina attorney said.

“This is all conjecture and has implications for free speech. After all, people kill each other in video games all the time without consequences. I can’t imagine real-world criminal consequences for a virtual crime. »

UNSPECIFIED - MARCH 25: General view of the Etro fashion show during Metaverse Fashion Week on March 25, 2022 in UNSPECIFIED, Unspecified.  Metaverse Fashion Week MVFW is hosted by virtual world Decentraland and is the first experimental virtual fashion week.
“I don’t think criminal laws should be changed to protect avatars as people,” says one expert.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Will the avatar get a “personality?”

This question has divided experts who spoke to The Sun throughout the past week.

Bandler, who has a long history and deep knowledge of cybercrimes, said criminal law protections for avatars “couldn’t work.”

“I don’t think criminal laws should be changed to protect avatars as people. It wouldn’t make sense, and we have enough challenges to protect people,” Bandler said.

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A virtual reality headset is one of the means by which users can access the metaverse.
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“Online gaming means that thousands (millions) of avatars are ‘injured’ or ‘killed’ daily. Indeed, such acts are either “part of the game” or at least permitted by the game.”

Even now, very few crimes or threats of digital harassment on the Internet are prosecuted, according to Bandler.

“Each case is individualized, but many threats are made and criminal repression is not frequent,” he said. “I can’t imagine threats in the metaverse will get much traction with law enforcement.

UNSPECIFIED - MARCH 25: General view of Metaverse Fashion Week on March 25, 2022 in UNSPECIFIED, Unspecified.  Metaverse Fashion Week MVFW is hosted by virtual world Decentraland and is the first experimental virtual fashion week.
The metaverse has untapped potential and an unknown amount of crime.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

“You can try reporting them to the FBI, but good luck. The main recourse is through the platform.

On the other hand, Pryor and Roberts said they can envision a future where laws are changed or new laws are created to reflect potential violence in the metaverse.

“Could the law give more protection to avatars because they are like our personal personality? Could the law extend the protection? Yeah, I think potentially. But it’s not like that right now,” Pryor said.

This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission.




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