Crimes on Internet No Longer Just Theoretical; Murder, Rape, Etc. May Be Actionable, Say Experts
Crime In The Metaverse
WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 12, 2022) – The Sun reports that three legal experts who have written about crime in the metaverse suggest that “violent crimes like murder, rape or assault in the metaverse can arguably be speech-related charges like menacing, harassment or stalking.”
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Their speculation is only theoretical, but criminal acts in the metaverse, and various sexual uses of the Internet, have already wound up in court, and many more cases are coming, says public interest law professor, the man behind the the article “The Case of the Vibrator That Knew Too Much”
Women are being raped and groped in the metaverse, raped over the Internet, and having information about their sex organs shared with the world; and these and other technological developments – including sexbots which are becoming overwhelmingly popular during the pandemic – are raising novel legal issues, including some law suits which have already been brought, reports Banzhaf.
For example, a headline in USA TODAY reads “Woman Alleges Rape in Virtual World,” and reports that a female player in the U.K. wrote that she was sexually harassed and raped in the virtual game. “She details watching her avatar get raped by a handful of male avatars, who took photos and sent her comments like ‘don’t pretend you didn’t love it.’”
More generally, inside increasingly realistic and all encompassing online games, female players are complaining about being groped, says Banzhaf, who established copyright protection for computer programs, and helped reform U.S. law to deal with computers.
For example, one woman recently reported that a male avatar groped her female avatar in an online game, and then virtually ejaculated onto it. Another complained that he “shoved his hand toward my virtual crotch and began rubbing. There I was, being virtually groped in a snowy fortress with my brother-in-law and husband watching.”
Online Harassment And Bullying
MIT’s magazine reported that “It’s not the first time a user has been groped in VR—nor, unfortunately, will it be the last.”
The New York Times, commenting on the problem, explained that “bad behavior in the metaverse can be more severe than today’s online harassment and bullying. That’s because virtual reality plunges people into an all-encompassing digital environment where unwanted touches in the digital world can be made to feel real and the sensory experience is heightened.”
While many of these vile acts may not violate any criminal laws, they may constitute sexual harassment. As one expert has noted, “I think people should keep in mind that sexual harassment has never had to be a physical thing, It can be verbal, and yes, it can be a virtual experience as well.”
Another expert, a law professor, added: “at the end of the day, the nature of virtual-reality spaces is such that it is designed to trick the user into thinking they are physically in a certain space, that their every bodily action is occurring in a 3D environment. It’s part of the reason why emotional reactions can be stronger in that space, and why VR triggers the same internal nervous system and psychological responses.”
Such virtual groping might also give rise to a civil law suit, especially if the illusion is very realistic, says Banzhaf, who is known for developing novel legal theories to expand tort law. For example, he successfully sued Spiro Agnew to recover the money he received in bribes, and McDonald’s paid over $12 million to settle a law suit about fat in its french fries.
For example, the male could well be sued civically for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress, especially if he knows that the victim is especially sensitive, says Banzhaf, who has been called “The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry,” “a Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars,” and a “King of Class Action Law Suits.”
Law suits about sex and Internet aren’t unprecedented, says Banzhaf.
For example, when a user of the dildo, designed to be operated remotely over the Internet, discovered that each use of the device sent information back to the maker about when and how long she used it, what her favorite vibration settings were, her internal temperature, and even her email address, she sued in federal court for consumer fraud, unjust enrichment, intrusion upon seclusion, and violation of the Federal Wiretap Act and the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute.
As a result, the maker of this “Lexus of Sex Toys” was forced to settle for $3.7 million. Indeed, a legal article entitled “The Case of the Vibrator That Knew Too Much” reported that:
“The really dark part of all this is, according to John Banzhaf, a public interest law professor at George Washington University Law School, who published an essay on this, if a hacker—whether a former lover or a total stranger—intrudes on the We-Vibe information, he or she could conceivably be charged with sexual assault or even rape. ‘Since the smart dildos are connected to the internet, and can be controlled by someone even on another continent, hacking is an obvious possibility and potential danger,’ Banzhaf says.”
In speeches as well as formal legal presentations, Banzhaf has warned that Teledildonics, especially when also combined with screwdriving, creates new opportunities for hackers to invade the vaginal or even rectal privacy of early-adapter sex enthusiasts, including putting real time pictures of the insides of their vaginas or rectums on the Internet, or even engaging in hacker manipulations of the devices which might constitute the felony crimes of sexual assault or rape, or violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act [CFAA].
In another widely cited piece, Banzhaf warned about problems now already occurring where cyber brothels are able to operate even openly – without violating any laws, even when they cater to teen age boys – by providing very lifelike sex robots [sexbots] – which many customers actually prefer to real female prostitutes (which would make the operation illegal).
Indeed, its appears that the pandemic has created an explosive growth in the use of such sexbots – in both cyber brothels filled with sexbots, as well as by private owners in the privacy of their homes or offices – because of fear of contracting Covid from human interaction, as well as quarantines and other restrictions on movements.