“MURDER” in the metaverse isn’t a 25-year life sentence — or even a felony — but it could be a felony, some legal experts believe.
The Sun spoke to two lawyers who have written about crimes 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 that violent crimes such as murder, rape, or assault in the Metaverse could well be language-related charges such as threats, harassment, or stalking.
It boils down to the wording of the laws as they are currently written, experts say.
They were written to protect “real, live people,” said John Bandler, who teaches cybersecurity and cybercrime at New York University Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.
The law is not designed to protect avatars or software code that populate the metaverse.
“I would look at it more as language or expression than as a physical action against a person,” Bandler said.
“Then we can analyze whether that speech or utterance is permissible, protected or not.”
This argument feeds into the broader First Amendment societal debate about what speech is protected, what is not, and what can be prosecuted.
“All the trolling, virtual bullying, threats and bad behavior online is happening all the time. It’s nothing new, and it’s going to happen in the metaverse,” said Greg Pryor, an attorney with the Law Firm Reed Smith LLP.
“But if I say something racist or insult someone because of their race, religion or sexuality, then you may be subject to criminal prosecution.”
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A third expert – Patrick Roberts, who Robert’s legal group – said it was difficult to prosecute a normally 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 virtual violence avatar could potentially be restricted or blocked from access for a period of time,” the North Carolina attorney said.
“These are all conjectures and have implications for freedom of expression. After all, people are constantly killing each other in video games with no consequences. I can’t imagine any criminal penalties for virtual crime in the real world.”
WILL AVATARS GAIN “PERSONALITY”?
That question divided experts who spoke to The Sun over the past week
Bandler, who has extensive experience and knowledge of cybercrime, said criminal law protecting avatars “might not work.”
“I don’t think criminal laws should be changed to protect avatars as humans. It wouldn’t make sense, and we have enough challenges just to protect people,” Bandler said.
“Online gaming means that thousands (millions) of avatars are ‘hurt’ or ‘killed’ every day. In fact, such actions are either ‘part of the game’ or at least allowed by the game.”
Already, very few digital harassment offenses or online threats are prosecuted, Bandler said.
“Each case is individual, but many threats are made and prosecutions are not frequent,” he said. “I can’t imagine metaverse threats getting much traction with law enforcement.
“You can try to report her to the FBI, but good luck. The main way is the platform.”
On the other hand, Pryor and Roberts said they could envision a future where laws would be changed or new laws created to reflect potential violence in the metaverse.
“Could the law give more protection to avatars because they are like our personalities? Could the law expand protections? Yes, I think possibly. But that’s not the case right now,” Pryor said.
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/news-tech/8635013/can-you-murder-in-metaverse/ Metaverse Experts Reveal If You Can Assassinate Someone In The Virtual World