The UK recently opened its first investigation into VR sexual assaults, setting off a debate about whether the law should redefine metaverse crimes. Even so, we should all face up to the pain of the person involved, whether it comes from the virtual or real world, the wound is real.

The first "metaverse" virtual world sexual assault case was officially launched in the UK on January 1, 2024.

At the time of the crime, a 16-year-old girl was playing a game with a VR headset when multiple male gamers used their characters to sexually assault her doppelganger.

In fact, this is not the first incident of metaverse harassment since the increasing innovation of VR and virtual reality technology.

Metaverse crime incidents are not exceptional, and have happened in Meta games in the past

Horizon Worlds, a VR online game operated by Meta, has been reported by users in the past that they have been continuously followed by other players in the game after entering Horizon Worlds, and have been subjected to uncomfortable verbal harassment.

Research by research agency Limina Immersive shows that the next generation of children will use nearly three hours a day on virtual reality devices, and will spend about 10 years in their lives.

With the gradual maturity and popularity of VR, coupled with the fact that the design of virtual reality is essentially to make people indistinguishable, and the difference between digital and real experiences, perhaps we should rethink how we can view and deal with the similar feelings and experiences of virtual avatars and users' bodies when sexual assault incidents occur in the virtual world.

In order for the metaverse to become, as Meta puts it, "a place for you to explore new worlds and share experiences", it is truly a new way for people to connect, rather than allowing this shared experience to become a hotbed of crime.

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Is it a crime to act in virtual reality?

From an institutional point of view, given that the definition of sexual assault under the current UK law is "physical contact with another person without their consent", the definition of "physical contact" does not yet cover conduct in the virtual world, which also brings challenges to law enforcement.

In response to the virtual world incident, Ian Critchley, head of child protection and abuse investigations in the UK, said that "virtual worlds expose children to the risk of being criminalized", and pledged that continued changes in policing will ensure that all people are protected from threats to use technology in cyberspace.

Returning to Taiwan, the definition of sexual assault in Article 2 of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Control Act only covers "penetrating sexual acts, touching, touching or other obscene acts", which shows that it is still based on "physical" and "contact", and there is still room for discussion on how to deal with sexual assault incidents in the virtual world.

(Guess you want to see: "I could be your sister, your friend, or your daughter" sexual harassment virtual reality, take you through the most shocking night of the victim)

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In fact, in addition to the rethinking of the definition of sexual assault in the current law, the blurring of geographical boundaries in the metaverse also raises the question of which law enforcement agency has jurisdiction over the incident when the user and the perpetrator are located in different countries.

At present, we have not been able to get an answer to the question of "what to do in the virtual world" in the law, but there is no shortage of discussion about the incident on social media. However, from comments such as "is this really", "why doesn't she end the game", "real-life crimes are what we should pay attention to", etc., it can be seen that although the public has discussed, there is still a lack of understanding and cognition of crimes in the virtual world.

One group of voices said that the victim was not harmed because they were not physically assaulted, while others believed that the psychological trauma left by sexual assault in the virtual world was no different from that of a real sexual assault.

(Gaying in the same scene: Gender News|Female researcher was sexually assaulted in the metaverse!1 hour sexually assaulted in front of other users)

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Confront the wounds left by violence in the virtual and physical worlds

It is undeniable that the virtual world definitely has its differences from the real world, such as fighting and killing, which is beyond the rules of the real world, so whether we can directly transplant the rules in the real world to regulate the events in the virtual world, and whether we can be compared with whether we can directly transplant the rules in the real world to regulate the events in the virtual world, and because we are willing to fight and die honorably, and whether we are unwilling to be sexually assaulted by the virtual world, we can put a question mark.

What is certain at present is that the injuries left on the parties are real, and they can be avoided because the field of occurrence is physical or virtual, and whether it is physical or virtual world, it is not only women who have the opportunity to be sexually assaulted, but also men and people of various gender orientations may become the perpetrators.

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As UK Home Secretary James Cleverly has stated, "Those who commit crimes in the virtual world are likely to continue to do horrific things in the real world. If we view the metaverse sexual assault incident as unreal, it will diminish the severity of the emotional trauma suffered by the victim, and we may also underestimate the possibility of a connection between virtual crime and real-world criminal behavior.

In addition to waiting for this case to advance the principles of society to reshape the virtual world, and face up to the psychological harm suffered by the parties involved in sexual harassment/assault cases, we, as users, should also be more conscious of the use of technology. After all, in addition to the strict control of technology companies and the advancement of legal provisions, the impact of technology on human beings is good or bad, and ultimately it has to return to the active self-discipline of technology users.