Anyone who believes that sexual assault in the metaverse goes unpunished, please change your mind. Sexual offenses committed in this virtual space remain reprehensible. Proof of this is the conviction of a South Korean for this kind of offence.
South Korean man sentenced for sexual abuse in metaverse
In South Korea, a man in his thirties was apprehended, tried and then sentenced to 4 years in prison for sexual abuse in the metaverse. This man produced and stored sexual content involving minors. Concretely, he came into contact with minors on a South Korean metaverse platform. For a gift, he encourages victims to send pornographic photos and videos. The man thus built up his database between December 2021 and March 2022.
The identity of the sex offender was not revealed in the press. Nevertheless, the media provided some additional information on this case. In addition to the prison sentence, the court also ordered a therapeutic injunction. For this care measure, the convict must follow an 80-hour program specially designed for sex offenders. He is also prohibited from frequenting institutions and other organizations involving minors upon his release from prison. And for seven years.
Legislation to protect users
As metaverse development gallops, miners are increasingly exposed to harassment and sexual assault. In recent months, experts have been more concerned about it. And yet, laws have not been adequately designed to address abuse in virtual and digital spaces. Furthermore, jurisdictional issues on the nationless, borderless Internet also complicate law enforcement. On most metaverse platforms, the sanctions are limited to the deletion of the offending user’s account.
In South Korea, lawmaker Kang Sun-woo has formulated a bill. In particular, he proposed new amendments to an existing law on the protection of young people. This law aims to make operators of online platforms more accountable. For its part, the Ministry of Science of South Korea announces ethical principles for the metaverse.
Sexual assault, a growing scourge in the virtual space
The internet and digital spaces of all kinds have always been plagued by harassment and sexual assault. According to Michael Bugeja, a professor at Iowa State University (he teaches ethics and media technology), the metaverse and virtual reality are breaking down the boundary between the virtual self and the real self. “It can make a digital life feel real with real feelings, which has exacerbated the impact of sexual misconduct in a metaverse. “, he explains.
Sexual harassment in the metaverse is often glossed over or ignored. However, the psychological consequences are very real. British psychologist Heather Sequeira elaborates on this point: “The intention of virtual reality is to trick the human nervous system into experiencing perceptual and bodily responses in this different 3D space. Also, if the physical body remains intact in an attack, the emotional and psychological shock is very real.
Harassment and sexual assault in the metaverse are on the rise. Experts deplore the lack of proactivity of companies and platforms. The latter are content to act on a case-by-case basis. This is far from enough to stem this scourge in the making. Especially with haptic technology which continues to develop.
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