UK Girl Virtually Gang Raped Metaverse Virtual Reality Game Cops Begin Probe Meta

The case is believed to be the first virtual sexual offence investigated by the police (Representational)

New Delhi:

Police in the UK are investigating the first case of an alleged rape in a virtual reality game after a 16-year-old girl was “sexually attacked” in the online “metaverse”. The girl is said to have been left distraught after her avatar–her digital character– was gang-raped by online strangers, The New York reported.

The teen was wearing a virtual reality headset in an immersive game when she was allegedly raped by a group of men, the report said. Though she did not sustain any physical injury, investigating officers said she suffered the same emotional and psychological trauma as someone who has been raped in the “real world”, it added.

The case is believed to be the first virtual sexual offence investigated by the police.

“This child experienced psychological trauma similar to that of someone who has been physically raped. There is an emotional and psychological impact on the victim that is longer term than any physical injuries,” a senior officer familiar with the case told the news outlet.

“It poses a number of challenges for law enforcement given current legislation is not set up for this,” the officer added.

However, it remains unclear what game the teenage girl was playing at the time of the alleged offence.

The investigation into the landmark case has now prompted questions about whether police should be pursuing virtual offences, given police and prosecutors are currently struggling with an enormous backlog of actual rape cases.

However, UK Home Secretary James Cleverly has defended the virtual reality rape probe saying that the child has gone through “sexual trauma”.

“I know it is easy to dismiss this as being not real, but the whole point of these virtual environments is they are incredibly immersive,” Mr Cleverly told news outlet LBC.

“It’s also worth realising that somebody who is willing to put a child through a trauma like that digitally may well be someone that could go on to do terrible things in the physical realm.”

How Has Meta Responded?

There have been several reports of virtual sex crimes in Horizon Worlds — a free VR game operated by Facebook’s parent company, Meta.

“The kind of behaviour described has no place on our platform, which is why for all users we have an automatic protection called personal boundary, which keeps people you don’t know a few feet away from you,” a spokesperson for Meta said.

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