Anyone who believes that sexual assault in the metaverse goes unpunished, please change your mind. Sexual crimes committed in this virtual space remain reprehensible. Proof of this is the conviction of a South Korean for this type of crime.
In South Korea, a man in his thirties was arrested, tried and then sentenced to 4 years in prison for sexual abuse in the metaverse. This man produced and archived sexual content involving minors. Specifically, he came into contact with minors on a South Korean metaverse platform. For a gift, he encourages victims to submit pornographic photos and videos. The man thus built the database of him between December 2021 and March 2022.
The identity of the sex offender was not revealed in the press. However, the media has provided some additional information on this case. In addition to the prison sentence, the court also issued a therapeutic injunction. For this measure of care, the inmate must follow an 80-hour program specially designed for sex offenders. He is also prohibited from attending institutions and other organizations involving minors upon his release from prison. And for seven years.
Legislation for the protection of users
With the development of the metaverse gallops, minors are increasingly exposed to sexual harassment and assault. In recent months, experts have been more concerned. Still, the laws have not been adequately designed to address abuse in virtual and digital spaces. Furthermore, jurisdictional issues on the nationless and borderless internet also complicate law enforcement. On most metaverse platforms, penalties are limited to deleting the offending user’s account.
In South Korea, legislator Kang Sun-woo has formulated a bill. In particular, he proposed new changes to an existing law on the protection of young people. This law aims to make operators of online platforms more responsible. For its part, the South Korean Ministry of Science announces the ethical principles for the metaverse.
Sexual assault, a growing plague in virtual space
The internet and digital spaces of all kinds have always been plagued by sexual harassment and assault. According to Michael Bugeja, a professor at Iowa State University (teaches ethics and media technology), the metaverse and virtual reality are breaking down the line between the virtual self and the real self. “It can make a digital life with real feelings feel real, which exacerbated the impact of sexual misconduct on a metaverse,” he explains.
Sexual harassment in the metaverse is often ignored 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 during an attack, the emotional shock and psychological is very real.
Sexual harassment and assaults 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 sufficient to stem this ongoing scourge. Especially with the tactile technology that continues to develop.
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