Not Even The Metaverse Is Safe Anymore

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Not Even The Metaverse Is Safe Anymore: Sexual Violence Within Virtual Reality And How Criminalizing Unsolicited Sexual Images In The UK Relates To This Horrifying Experience

What Just Happened?

Tiktoks have gone viral regarding events of sexual threats, assaults, and abuse being performed by one or more people on the online metaverse simulation. Sexual harassment and abuse occur in all aspects of life, including the Metaverse, a 3D virtual reality simulation. Researchers caution that since virtual reality is so deep and all-consuming, these types of aggression are closer to reality than other virtual environments. A psychotherapist, Nina Jane Patel, has directly experienced a traumatic violation of being “gang raped” in virtual reality. [2]

What Does This Mean?

According to Elena Martellozzo, associate professor of criminology at Middlesex University's Centre for Child Abuse and Trauma Studies, while the benefits of the Metaverse include a sense of anonymity and freedom to play, there are drawbacks because it may heighten the lack of inhibition that people sometimes exhibit in digital spheres. Martellozzo explains that the dissociation mechanism refers to the fact that when you do not have that face-to-face interaction, you become less restrained online. People can be a little more honest and potentially confrontational in emails. People would be far more hesitant if the dialogue took place face to face. This dissociation process is aided much further by the Metaverse. And it makes whoever is interacting feel even more real. [2]

How Does This Event Relate To The Criminating Of Cyberflashing In The UK?

According to YouGov, four out of every ten women today have received an unsolicited picture of a man's genitals without their consent. While a popular dating app Bumble conducted a study with Research Without Barriers, they discovered that 48% of people aged 18 to 24 had received a sexual photo they did not request throughout 2020 and 2021. When a person receives an unsolicited pornographic image on their smartphone via Airdrop, a file-sharing technology available on iPhones, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi, this is referred to as cyber flashing. Because of the technology's limited range, it typically occurs in public places such as trains or buses. In 2020, events of this kind had doubled due to the inaction of the law. Hence, it has been the Metaverse has a similar idea where unsolicited contact of any kind feels very real and traumatic which calls for action. [4]

How Does This Impact The Legal Sector?

The individuals that have been convicted of sending unsolicited images are now going on the sex offenders list along with a 2-year sentence in jail in the United Kingdom. [4] Data shows that there has been an increase in these events following the pandemic both virtually and outdoors. This problem needs to be addressed in the Metaverse and there should be consequences as inaction may lead to a rise in physical and violent crimes through sexual harassment and rape. [3]

Nina Jane Patel's remarks follow research into the Metaverse conducted by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate, which discovered a hundred potential violations of Meta's virtual reality policies in the space of 11 hours and 30 minutes of recordings of people's behaviour in the app – translating to one violation every seven minutes. The reports within the popular VRChat regarding the sexual harassment, abuse, violations, and bullying of all individuals, specifically minors has not been addressed by Meta. As Meta’s age limitation is as low as 13 years old, it is recommended to release new regulations to limit Meta starting from young adults starting from 18 years old. [2]

Shifting The Blame

Perhaps the underlying issue is the impression that when you play a game or participate in a virtual environment, there is a "contract between developer and player," as Stanton describes it. "As a player, I agree to be able to do whatever I want in the developer's world under their rules," he explains. "However, if that contract is broken and I am no longer feeling comfortable, the company should return the player to wherever they want to be and back to feeling comfortable. "The question is, who is responsible for ensuring that consumers are comfortable? Meta, for example, claims that it provides users with the means to keep themselves safe, essentially transferring the burden onto them. [1]

Finally, it is to be highlighted that VR harassment is sexual harassment and should be treated accordingly within the law and regulations should be made accordingly within the VR world.[1] Until then, a good way to avoid VR harassment and abuse, for the time being, is implicating the SafeZone option to block or avoid everyone in your circle. However, this is still not a permanent solution to the problem as it is asking for the victims to protect themselves rather than take action against the perpetrators.

Written by Harshitha Bandarupalli

The Legists Content Team

Assessing Firms:

#VRChatInc #BigTechfirms #JeremyMuhlfelder #DMCA #White&Case

This Article was Written Using the Following Sources

[1] Basu T, “The Metaverse Has a Groping Problem Already” (MIT Technology Review December 2021) <https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/12/16/1042516/the-metaverse-has-a-groping-problem/>

[2] Openheim M, “‘Repeated Rape Threats’: Sexual Violence and Racist Abuse in the Metaverse” (The IndependentFebruary 16, 2022) <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/metaverse-sexual-harasment-assault-racism-b2015741.html> accessed February 17, 2022

[3] Spivey M, “Men Who Send Unsolicited Sexual Pics to Strangers Could Face Two Years in Jail” (MyLondonFebruary 9, 2022) <https://www.mylondon.news/news/uk-world-news/men-who-send-unsolicited-sexual-23039562> accessed February 17, 2022

[4] Westbrook C, “What Is Cyber Flashing and Is It a Crime in the UK?” (MetroDecember 14, 2021) <https://metro.co.uk/2021/12/14/cyber-flashing-what-is-it-and-is-it-a-crime-in-the-uk-15768376/> accessed February 17, 2022

Disclaimer: This article (and any information accessed through links in this article) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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