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Metaverse: British police investigate virtual rape of young girl

Aged 16, a young British girl wearing a virtual reality headset, as part of the immersive game “Horizon Worlds”, saw her avatar (virtual representation of herself) being raped by a “gang of adult men ", according to the Daily Mail.

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Metaverse: British police investigate virtual rape of young girl

Aged 16, a young British girl wearing a virtual reality headset, as part of the immersive game “Horizon Worlds”, saw her avatar (virtual representation of herself) being raped by a “gang of adult men ", according to the Daily Mail. More precisely, these men violated the young girl's digital character through their own avatars. Even if the latter was not physically injured, the trauma suffered by the young girl is similar to that of a physical attack, according to British police.

The metaverse is a virtual universe where anyone can create a representation of themselves via an avatar. Everyone can then live a parallel life and connect with other avatars. Even though this world is fictional, it is designed to make people feel like they are in reality. “Police officers said the victim suffered the same psychological and emotional trauma as a person raped in the real world, because the “VR” experience is designed to be fully immersive,” reports the British daily Daily Mail.

“Sexual attacks in the metaverse, like those reported on Horizon Worlds, a VR game managed by Meta (formerly Facebook, Editor's note), are becoming more and more common,” indicates the Daily Mail. From then on, “Ian Critchley, of the National Police Chiefs' Council, warned of the dangers of the metaverse. He considers it a breeding ground for sexual predators,” we can still read in the conservative daily.

When asked about the incident by the Daily Mail, a Meta spokesperson said that “the type of behavior described has no place on our platform. That's why all users benefit from an automatic protection called "personal limit", which keeps people you don't know a few meters away from you. This security tool established by default prevents non-friends from coming within one meter of your avatar. However, if the latter removes his "personal limit", he nonetheless remains consenting to sexual relations, recalled a spokesperson for the group to Les Échos in the context of a previous sexual assault of an English player in the same game, end of December 2021.

Other rapes in the virtual world have already been recorded, including one in 2016, by an American player on the virtual reality game QuiVr, recalls the Neon magazine website, but the opening of a police investigation in United Kingdom opens the debate on virtual crimes and the laws associated with them. Indeed, rape being defined across the Channel as non-consensual penetration (vaginal, anal or oral), the notion of physical harm is essential, which is not the case in this situation. Donna Jones, British president of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, calls in the Daily Mail to "update" British laws which currently do not take into account "the risks of injuries which emerge from artificial intelligence and break the law on platforms like the metaverse.

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