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Metacrimes: The Need For Laws To Govern The Metaverse

The Metaverse, the successor to today's internet, stands as a beacon of the future, promising an immersive, 3D virtual world. It embodies the dream of a future with endless potential. However, amid the plethora of opportunities it presents, there emerges an unknown realm fraught with new possibilities of crime.

Recently, a 16-year- old child in the UK was gang-raped in the metaverse. This sadly is not the first nor will it be the last of the crimes that the metaverse harbours. Last year, a 21-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and harassed in the metaverse. Even though the metaverse is in its nascent stage , there is very little talk about forming an appropriate legal framework to regulate the metaverse.

In 2016, Pokļæ½mon Go introduced the world to augmented reality games that overlaid the real world. From there on , it was uphill for the metaverse , where In 2021, Microsoft introduced Mesh as a platform for virtual collaboration, Facebook's parent company rebranded itself, and later in 2022, Nvidia and Siemens partnered to create the industrial metaverse.

The metaverse provides a great deal of possibilities to enhance our law enforcement agencies and improve the working of the judiciary.

First, the metaverse can be used to preserve crime scenes. This could help attorneys and law enforcement agencies to analyze and access crime scenes in depth without tampering with the physical world. This could help improve accuracy and solve cases faster.

Second, the metaverse could be used by law enforcement to stimulate real-world scenarios, providing them with necessary training and skill development without incurring additional costs. It can also act as a medium for international collaboration. The metaverse can help law students and other law enforcement agencies learn in a three-dimensional world.

Third, the metaverse could provide a forum for virtual meetings. This could further provide for virtual courts , in which court proceedings could be performed in the virtual world. This would be beneficial for people living in remote locations to access justice.

Fourth, the metaverse can also help make better decisions during dangerous and urgent times. Recently, studies have shown that drone technology combined with VR headsets could help synchronize physical and virtual worlds to provide a holistic view of an area with real-time data analysis. This could help coordinate communication between law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders.

The metaverse today has become a breeding ground for new forms of crimes known as metacrime. The possibilities of crimes in the metaverse are as follows:

First, the metraverse is susceptible to identity theft and privacy crimes. In Justice K.S. Puttaswamy and Anr vs. The Union of India & Ors case reaffirmed the right to privacy as a fundamental right to the citizens of India. However, does this extend to the metaverse as well is a question that remains to be answered. Through hacking , criminals can gain access to your personal data without authorization. They can further impersonate the victim and have access to virtual assets and information such as biometrics and fingerprints.

Second, the metaverse could provide a forum for money laundering. Criminals could invest their proceeds from crimes into various clean assets such as NFTs and turn them into clean assets. Thus, erasing traces of the origin of money. This could also be used to commit an abundance of other financial crimes such as terror financing, tax evasion, and other finance scams.

Third, be it the virtual or physical world, women tend to be victims. The benefit of anonymity allows criminals to produce fake images of women and children. Sexual assaults and harassment are also a reality in the metaverse. Stalking is yet another possibility where criminals closely track the activities, interests, and other personal information of the victim.

Fourth, crimes against children are a real possibility. Access to the virtual world by children without parental guidance and other safeguards makes them vulnerable to crimes such as assault, abuse , harassment, and indecent exposure. Individuals with nefarious intentions could use these minors for their own financial gain and could coerce them into performing various tasks, leading to child labour.

Fifth, the metaverse could help spread misinformation. This could further lead to defamation. Given cover anonymity, criminals can spread misinformation for their own personal gain or could make statements that could threaten sovereignty , unity, and integrity of the nation or the respect of an individual in society. It could be used to spread false information about companies, thus reducing the trust of the public in their products or services.

Sixth, avatars within the metaverse could also be vulnerable to various property crimes. Individuals in the form of their avatars could purchase various digital assets such as NFTs, virtual currencies, and trademarks. Criminals can steal virtual assets for their monetary gains, causing the victim to sustain real-world losses. Their properties could also be destroyed or counterfeited, thereby reducing the value of such assets.

There are various other crimes in addition to the abovementioned metacrimes. International and national government agencies should take appropriate steps to curb this evil. There should be a uniform set of rules and regulations accompanied by appropriate punishments to bring to justice the perpetrators of these metacrimes.

There are various other crimes in addition to the abovementioned metacrimes. International and national government agencies should take appropriate steps to curb this evil. There should be a uniform set of rules and regulations accompanied by appropriate punishments to bring to justice the perpetrators of these metacrimes.

First, the metacrimes need to be defined. There is a need to form appropriate laws and regulations to define various crimes in the metaverse. Countries should collaborate to draw definitive jurisdictions to maintain control and prevent overlaps in each other's jurisdictions. There is a need to access the varsity of crimes in the virtual and real world to provide appropriate reformative and retributive punishments. In South Korea, a man was sentenced to jail for using AI to generate exploitative images of children. This was the first of its kind case in the country. Governments around the world should be ready to protect their citizens from such crimes soon.

Second, law enforcement agencies must be trained to combat metacrimes. To ensure speedy justice delivery, governments must establish police stations within the metaverse. This would make it easier and faster for individuals(avatars) to approach the police to lodge complaints against metacrimes committed against them. This could help increase the presence of law enforcement within the metaverse. Thus, further helping to instil the fear of law within the metaverse .

Third, law students , judges, and even law enforcement agencies need to be educated about the metaverse and the crimes that occur within it. Law students need to learn about the rules and regulations surrounding the metaverse , judges are required to be trained in understanding the complexities and implications of such crimes on individuals, and firms and law enforcement agencies are required to be trained in how to handle crimes within the metaverse and investigate the crimes that occur in the metaverse.

Fourth, parental permission and consent must be obtained to allow minors to use the metaverse. In the future, the metaverse could grow to become a source of knowledge; the aim is not to keep children away from the benefits of technology; rather, it is to secure their interactions within the forum and help nurture children in a safe and guarded environment. Large tech companies must also help build a moderated VR to curate the content in the metaverse in accordance with standards advisable for minors.

Fifth, anonymity is a criminal's boon within the metaverse. In the metaverse, each individual is represented by their chosen avatar, providing leverage for those with malicious intentions to commit crimes in the shadows. This could be prevented by obtaining standardised documentation before entering the metaverse. It also raises questions about whether an avatar should be considered a legal entity. Establishing the avatar as a legal person could mean they can purchase assets, sue, and be sued. Governments must consider the various facets and challenges that come with this burgeoning technology.

The metaverse is still in its embryonic stage, with the potential to change the way we live. According to Gartner, about 25% of people worldwide are projected to spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse by 2026. A report suggests that India's metaverse and web3 market could reach around $200 billion by 2035. Another study by Citi's global perspective states that the metaverse could generate about $13 trillion by 2030.

Technology is ever-evolving; hence, laws should evolve in the right direction to protect society from potential harms. It is now the need of the hour for governments to formulate laws that consider the interests of various stakeholders, regulating these technologies and preventing the monopolisation of this burgeoning sector. The laws that world governments craft should be future-proof, involving the drafting of comprehensive and technologically neutral laws. The metaverse could profoundly change the world and positively impact the lives of billions if used appropriately.

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