Metaverse experts reveal if you can murder in the virtual world

“Murder” in Metaverse is not a 25-life prison – or even a crime – but it could be a crime, some legal experts say.

The Sun spoke with two lawyers who have written about crime in Metaverse, and a former Manhattan prosecutor who became a law professor about violence in the virtual world and whether they can be prosecuted.

Two of the three experts said that violent crimes such as murder, rape or assault in the metaverse could undoubtedly be speech-related charges such as threats, stalking or stalking.

It comes down to the wording of the laws as they are currently being written, experts say.

They are written to protect “real, living people,” said John Bandler, who teaches cyber security and cybercrime at the Elisabeth Haub New York School of Law at Pace University.

The law is not intended to protect avatars or software codes that populate the metaverse.

“I would rather see it as a speech or an expression; less like a physical act against a person, ”Bandler said.

“Then we can analyze whether that speech or that expression is allowed, protected or not.”

This argument feeds into the broader First Amendment public debate about what speech is protected, what is not, and what can be sued.

“All the trolls, virtual bullying, threats and bad behavior online are happening all the time. This is nothing new and it will happen in the metaverse,” said Greg Pryor, a lawyer with law firm Reed Smith LLP.

“But if I say something racist or abuse someone because of their race, religion or sexuality, you could potentially be sued.”

Crime laws protect “real, living people,” not avatars who populate the metaverse, an expert has said.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

A third expert – Patrick Roberts of the Roberts Law Group – said it would be difficult to prosecute a normally anonymous user and prove that the user committed the act.

The consequences are likely to be some kind of virtual punishment, such as disabling or restricting a user’s avatar, he said.

“And the person who used the avatar for virtual violence might be restricted or blocked from accessing for a period of time,” the North Carolina attorney said.

“It’s all conjecture and has consequences for freedom of expression. People kill each other in video games all the time without consequences. I can not imagine real criminal consequences for a virtual crime.”

UNSPECIFIED - MARCH 25: General image of the Etro fashion show during Metaverse Fashion Week on March 25, 2022 in US SPECIFIED, Unspecified.  Metaverse Fashion Week MVFW hosts the virtual world Decentraland and is the first experimental virtual fashion week.
“I do not think the penal code needs to be changed to protect avatars like humans,” says one expert.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

Will the avatar get a “personality?”

This issue has divided experts who have spoken to The Sun over the past week.

Bandler, who has a long history and deep knowledge of cybercrime, said criminal protection of avatars “could not work.”

“I do not think the penal code needs to be changed to protect avatars like humans. It would not make sense and we have enough challenges to protect people,” Bandler said.

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A virtual reality headset is one of the means by which users can access the meta-verse.
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“Online gaming means that thousands (millions) of avatars are ‘damaged’ or ‘killed’ daily. In fact, such actions are either ‘part of the game’ or at least permitted by the game.”

Even now, very few crimes or threats of digital harassment are prosecuted on the Internet, according to Bandler.

“Each case is individual, but many threats are made and criminal repression is not frequent,” he said. “I can not imagine that threats in the metaverse will gain much traction in law enforcement.

UNSPECIFIED - MARCH 25: General image of Metaverse Fashion Week on March 25, 2022 in UNSPECIFIED, Unspecified.  Metaverse Fashion Week MVFW hosts the virtual world Decentraland and is the first experimental virtual fashion week.
Metaversen has an untapped potential and an unknown amount of crime.
Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

“You can try to report them to the FBI, but good luck. The main resort is through the platform.

On the other hand, Pryor and Roberts said they can imagine a future where laws are changed or new laws are created to reflect potential violence in the metaverse.

“Could the law give more protection to avatars because they resemble our personal personality? Could the law extend the protection? Yes, I think potentially. But that’s not the case right now,” Pryor said.

This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission.

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