IBNS: British Police have started investigating the alleged gangrape of a girl’s ‘avatar’ in a virtual reality game, media reports said.
This is believed to be the first case of this kind to be probed that involves Metaverse.
The alleged victim, identified only as a girl under 16, was wearing a virtual reality headset in an immersive game when her avatar, an animated representation of her, was raped by those of several men, New York Post reported quoting Daily Mail.
Although the accuser did not sustain any physical injuries, she suffered mental trauma, police sources told the outlet.
“There is an emotional and psychological impact on the victim that is longer-term than any physical injuries,” a senior officer familiar with the case told the newspaper.
However, authorities fear it would be impossible to prosecute the suspects under the existing laws.
UK Home Secretary James Cleverly voices concern
Reacting to the development, Home Secretary James Cleverly told LBC’s “Nick Ferrari at Breakfast” program: “I know it is easy to dismiss this as being not real, but the whole point of these virtual environments is they are incredibly immersive.”
“And we’re talking about a child here, and a child has gone through sexual trauma,” he said.
“It will have had a very significant psychological effect and we should be very, very careful about being dismissive of this,” he added.
Alerting people, he said: “It’s also worth realising that somebody who is willing to put a child through a trauma like that digitally may well be someone that could go on to do terrible things in the physical realm.”
He said the incident should be treated ‘seriously’.
He said: “I think we have a duty to take issues like this seriously. It might seem strange to some, but I do think this is something well worth looking into.”
A senior officer who is familiar with the case told LBC the child went through psychological trauma.
“There is an emotional and psychological impact on the victim that is longer term than any physical injuries,” he said.
Ian Critchley, the lead for child protection and abuse investigation at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, echoed Cleverly’s words, telling the Mail as quoted by New York Post that the metaverse creates a “gateway” for predators to victimize children.
In 2022, researcher Nina Jane Patel said her online avatar was abused in a Meta-operated virtual world platform named Horizon Venues.
Recalling the experience, Patel told BBC that she was “surrounded by three to four male-sounding and male-representing avatars, who started sexually harassing me in a verbal sense and then sexually assaulting my avatar”.
In a statement, Meta said: “The kind of behaviour described has no place on our platform, which is why for all users we have an automatic protection called personal boundary, which keeps people you don’t know a few feet away from you.”