Four questions to understand everything

the curse! It’s a free offer ‘, an unknown user shoots into his microphone. Against a background of American rap music, his digital avatar suddenly begins to mimic a sexual relationship with that of a 21-year-old researcher*, who disagrees. All this under the eyes of his funny friend. ” You’ll need more, baby He adds the latter, pretending to give alcohol to the young woman.

This disturbing scene, which was partially broadcast on the Internet, took place in an extension of the so-called metaverse Horizon worlds, a parallel digital world created by Meta Group (formerly Facebook), which allows Internet users to play online and create their own virtual worlds. The researcher working for the NGO SumOfUs – an organization that denounces the behavior of companies it considers irresponsible – has regularly gone into the virtual world to study users’ behaviour. In the Daily Mail, she said she was ” Timid ” And the ” Confounded After this event.

Read also: After Facebook, Metavers: Welcome to the truly virtual world

The report written by SumOfUs at the end of May evokes the word “rape”, which was taken up by many media outlets. A legal term that, according to the Penal Code, means actual physical interaction. This is not the case in metaverses. What, then, should be thought of in terms of “sexual assault” or “rape”, in a 100% digital world? Four questions to see more clearly.

Can we really talk about “rape” in a virtual world?

Talking about rape may be too excessive and will not do justice to those who have been victims of this violence in real life. ». The psychoanalyst prefers to talk about the “feeling” of the Internet user during a hypothetical attack, which can generate anxiety, while mitigating the trauma that can result from it.

Read also: “The metaverse is above all a display of a complex relationship with reality.”

However, the highly immersive aspect of the metaverse is still impressive. virtual reality headset,oculus riftProvides a 360-degree view of the environment, and 3D avatars can add a layer of realism. ” Sensitive people can feel trapped ”, excites Michael Stora, but victims of inappropriate behavior can always disconnect from the virtual world and move away from the threat.

I think we should be particularly concerned about vulnerable and psychologically vulnerable people, Valerie Salam Benesti, an attorney who specializes in sexual assault, confirms. Victims who have experienced rape or sexual assault in real life, for example, may see buried traumas resurface if they experience this type of behavior in the metaverse. “.

Are there precedents?

In December 2021, psychotherapist Nina Jane Patel said she had been subjected to consecutive rapes in the Metaverse District. His degree is reported by the media around the world, particularly the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). ” Marketing geniusmocks Fabrice Eppelpoint, a social media specialist, who points out a therapist’s conflict of interest. No journalist has come forward to verify the identity of this woman. Yet she is the Co-Founder and Vice President of Metaverse Research for Capone! A company that has an interest in publishing this kind of information, is developing a three-and-a-half-year metaverse for children. In direct competition, therefore, with Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse.

However, the metaverse is not the first virtual world to know this kind of business. This is how psychiatrist Muriel Salmona conjures up Marian Take care of a young girl whose avatar has been manipulated for sexual purposes in the Roblox virtual world-building video game for kids.

Twenty years ago, the first metaverse, called Second Life, was already the subject of reports of sexual harassment and child pornography that included avatars. ” Sex has become the main activity of the game, and the 2022 metaverse doesn’t invent anything ‘,” Fabrice Applepoint points out.

Can sexual assault in metaphysics be considered as such from a legal point of view?

The absence of physical contact between the victim and the perpetrator in a virtual world makes it impossible to describe as rape in the metaverse. ” Three terms are necessary to describe rape. It takes a hack, a disapproval, and a mental component. However, these three conditions are not met in the case of the metaverse. Attorney Valerie Salam Beneste continues.

The terms sexual assault or sexual harassment are also not legally correct. These crimes only apply to real people, not digital avatars, which are currently considered objects. ” Talking about sexual assault similar to psychological violence, or about sexism, seems more accurateThe lawyer says. It will crystallize the problem and show that the victims’ voice is heard. But I’m not sure that the judiciary is going in that direction.

We are forced to think in terms of what is out there, and adapt existing regulations by trying to bring the metaverse into it “, abounds, Thierry Vallat, attorney in digital and criminal law. But for the first time, justice has been seized very early on on the subject of the metaverse. Conferences are organized to follow very rapid developments.” It’s one of the first times we’ve run into many potential legal issues regarding things that haven’t been fully defined yet.Lawyer strikes. The law in the metaverse is still unclear at the moment, but structured discussions may soon lead to regulations, at least on a European scale. “.

Can Metaver avoid these situations?

Meta has many technical levers to protect its users. Function personal boundaries Creates a protective bubble around the character, and contains non-friends at a reasonable (virtual) distance. A hypothetical job that the young employee of SumOfUs deactivated during the attack. In addition, the option safe area It transports anyone who feels danger to a virtual space separate from the rest.

Platforms responsibility can also be involved. ” The Digital Services Act (DSA), which the European Commission is trialling, plans to encourage platforms to promote their moderation of hateful and explicit content. If they do nothing, they can be held responsible and punished » Details: Tiffin Bagloun, PhD student in digital law.

Read also: Yves Marouflerent Soilo: ‘Our brain, the last land to be conquered by digital capitalism’.

After another Metaverse user complained in 2021, Vivek Sharma, Head of Development at Horizon Worlds, spoke to The Verge after the incident, describing the situation. Totally unfortunate To support the goodwill of the group, the director made it clear that he wanted to make more blocking tools. easy to find buttons to block ” And the ” Report It was developed to limit abuse from other malicious users.

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