How sexual predators roam free in the virtual world

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    Are there safe places for women and girls? This is a natural question, as incidents of rape and sexual abuse are on the rise in the virtual world as well. The latest shocking incident comes from the UK, where police are investigating the first case of alleged rape of a teenager in the Metaverse.

    This girl was “sexually attacked” in a virtual reality game in the Metaverse. The Metaverse is an immersive digital world where you can interact and interact through your online avatar using a virtual reality headset.

    What about British teenagers? How common is digital rape? Explained.

    De facto 'gang rape' of British girl

    The Daily Mail reports that the girl, who is under 16 years old, was gang-raped by strangers online in a virtual reality video game.

    Police are currently investigating the case, which is believed to be Britain's first de facto sex crime.

    The girl was reportedly distraught. Police said she suffered “the same psychological and emotional trauma as someone raped in the real world, as the 'VR' experience is designed to be fully immersive,” the report said.

    “This child experienced the same psychological trauma as someone who has been physically raped. There are emotional and psychological effects on the victim that are more lasting than the physical injuries.” Remarks from an executive with knowledge of the matter were reported to the press. “It creates a lot of challenges for law enforcement given the current laws are not set up for this.”

    The rise of “virtual rape”

    Virtual rape refers to instances of sexual abuse that take place in the online metaverse. Although it does not involve a physical attack, it can cause psychological trauma and affect the victim's mental health.

    The case of the British teenager may be the first to be investigated by police in the country, but it is not an isolated incident.

    Ian Critchley, head of child protection and abuse research at the UK National Police Chiefs' Council, said: “The metaverse is creating a gateway for predators to commit horrific crimes against children.”

    A senior police official said: daily mail Sexual crimes are currently “epidemic” in the Metaverse.

    In February 2022, London-based Nina Jane Patel revealed how a group of three to four avatars sexually harassed her within 60 seconds of joining the Metaverse platform Horizon Venue. I talked about what I did. “They effectively gang-raped my avatar and photographed me as I tried to escape,” said Patel, co-founder and vice president of Metaverse research company Kavni Ventures. I wrote this in a post on

    “My physiological and psychological reaction was as if it had actually happened,” she recalls.

    Patel said. CNBC TV 18 In an interview, she stated that she froze during the attack. She fiddled with her controller, trying to use the safety feature that allows users to block and report. “But as I begged them to stop and go away, their verbal harassment and sexual innuendo became increasingly aggressive, and I realized that this needed to end. '' she told the magazine.

    She took off her virtual reality headset, but she said she could still hear her attacker laughing and telling her to “don't act like you don't like it.”

    Patel said she can't go back and report or block them because she doesn't know the identity or name of their avatar.

    A girl wears a virtual reality headset in Beijing. Incidents of sexual assault in the Metaverse are on the rise.Representative photo/Reuters

    Incidents of sexual assault and harassment are more common than we believe. And the only targets are children and women. In December 2021, journalist Hugo Rifkind recalled being sexually assaulted during his second visit to the virtual reality game Horizon World. In a Times article, he said that while he was on his way to a Billie Eilish virtual concert with a friend, “this pretty creepy-looking bald guy ran up to us, bent over us double, and made a comic smack in the crotch of our cartoon.” “I started pumping my hand,” he wrote.

    A study conducted in December 2021 by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCD), a British non-profit organization, found that there are several cases of sexual harassment and assault within the Metaverse. “It was clear from the outset of our research that extreme sexual content is common in the Metaverse, and that it also manifests itself in sexual violence,” CCD head of research Calum Hood was quoted as saying. trend. “We witnessed numerous users committing virtual sexual harassment against other users and recorded evidence of users being subject to rape threats.”

    Also read: How online spaces for women are in crisis and what we need to do about it

    Punishment for “virtual rape and sexual assault”?

    There have been no prosecutions for virtual sex crimes in the UK, where the teenager's case is being investigated. According to the Act, the current law is unlikely to cover rape in the Metaverse, as the Sexual Offenses Act defines sexual assault as physical contact of another person in a sexual manner without consent. That's what it means. daily mail report.

    British Home Secretary James Cleverley supported an investigation into the incident, saying the British teenager had experienced “sexual trauma”. “I know it's easy to dismiss this as not real, but the thing about these virtual environments is that they're incredibly immersive,” Cleverley told news outlets. LBC.

    Gang rapes now occur in the Metaverse How sex offenders can roam freely in the virtual world
    A woman plays a virtual reality game at a preview day ahead of the 2022 digital games trade fair Gamescom in Cologne, Germany.File photo/Reuters

    Experts around the world are concerned that virtual spaces could become a hub for sex offenders and are calling on governments to urgently reform laws.

    Donna Jones, chairman of the UK Police and Crime Commissioners Association, highlighted the need to change the law because “the law has not kept up with the risk of harm evolving from artificial intelligence and causing crime on platforms like the Metaverse”. . daily mail I will report it.

    Huzefa Tavawala, head of the disruptive technology practice group at Indian law firm Nishit Desai Associates, was quoted as saying. CNBC TV 18 In 2022, it will be up to organizations to roll out safety programs. But he said it would be difficult to straighten out criminal liability in the metauniverse.

    There are many challenges. The law needs to be changed to prove sexual assault without physical contact. Another difficulty is determining which legal institution has jurisdiction over such cases, since the virtual avatars of both victim and perpetrator may be from different countries.

    meta reaction

    A spokesperson for Meta said: “The types of behavior described will not be tolerated on our platform. That's why we have automatic protections for all of our users, called Personal Boundaries, to keep strangers away from you. several feet away from the

    But is this enough to protect your avatar from virtual predators?

    Based on opinions from agents


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