The UK police force are investigating a sexual assault that took place in the metaverse.Taking place in a virtual reality video game, this is said to be the first-ever occasion where the country’s police force is investigating a virtual sexual offence.
The Daily Mail reports that the victim, in this case a girl under the age of 16, “suffered the same psychological and emotional trauma as someone who has been raped in the real world”.
Ian Critchley, a representative of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), highlighted the dangers of user-to-user interaction in the virtual world, saying “the metaverse creates a gateway for predators to commit horrific crimes against children”.
Appearing on LBC, UK Home Secretary James Cleverly addressed the investigation, saying “I know it’s easy to dismiss as being not real, but the whole point of these virtual environments is that they’re incredibly immersive”. UK Home Secretary James Cleverly addresses the investigation in the video below at 07:26:
“I do think it’s right we look seriously at this and we’ve got to understand that in the world of immersive digital media, I think we have a duty to take issues like this seriously”, Cleverly added.
This landmark investigation has prompted UK authorities to speak out about the need for updated legislation to address these online harms in the metaverse.
Chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Donna Jones, told the newspaper that “we need to update our laws because they have not kept pace with the risks of harm that are developing from artificial intelligence and offending on platforms like the metaverse”.
Another police official told the Daily Mail “it poses a number of challenges for law enforcement given current legislation is not set up for this”.