Metaverse Misdemeanors–Crime In The Metaverse

As far as criminal history, I’m pretty clean.

Well, almost.

I confess, I’m a little afraid to look up my record because of the Treasure Trolls from the 90s. Let me explain.

When I was a kid, my sister and I were scanning the aisles of a small convenience store. I was in grade school, and she was in her early 20s, which made me a liability. And like any kid in grade school at that time, when I saw a Treasure Troll, profound lust took over, and I wanted it.

Understand that a troll phase had been sweeping the nation. Yes, trolls were popular way back before Justin Timberlack and Anna Kendrick added their sonorous voices to the movie soundtrack.

These iterations were just little trolls with shiny plastic gems in their bellies.

And underneath the hard fluorescent lighting of that convenience store, I knew I had to have one. When I told my sister my heart’s desire, she smiled, picked up the troll, and threw it into her purse.

To this day, I can’t recall being more scared. I envisioned prison bars, stamping license plates, and even being forced into solitary. I visualized sitting there in the darkness, wondering what it must be like to play with the forbidden Treasure Troll on the other side of my well-deserved prison walls.

But fortunately, it didn’t get that far. I pitched a fit in the parking lot. I screamed and cried and lamented the future I’d forsaken to this life of crime.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I probably wet myself, too.

This prompted my sister to run back into the convenience store with the child’s toy-now-turned-evidence in hand and confess her sin to the cashier.

His name was Ricky. And he didn’t really thank us for being honest. Which sort of makes him a jerk.

Long story a little longer, my sister ended up paying for the Treasure Troll, and I took it home, beholding its legal goodness with every stroke of its purple-gem studded belly. However, to this day, I still wonder if Ricky is going to show up at my day job or comment on one of these articles.

“I remember you, Troll stealer. Your sin has found you out.”

And once again, I’d probably wet myself.

Crimes are happening as we speak. Some big, some little.

You might turn on the radio during your commute to see what’s taking place in your neck of the woods and be shocked to find that someone’s house has been burglarized. You may jump online after you finish dinner to scour the national websites and regard the various manner of atrocities committed across the country. You might even encounter it face-to-face, if you’re unfortunate enough to run across a nasty criminal in the mean streets of your nearest city, town, or village.

Crime is happening everywhere, and we aren’t getting away from it any time soon. So how exactly does crime happen in the metaverse?

Can metaverse developers brag about decentralization and also be aware that less regulation means more potential for victimization?

Cue metaverse Batman, please. Since there isn’t a formal governing body in the metaverse, maybe the time has come for us to look into some good old-fashioned vigilante justice.

Blockchain Bullying

The first crime that comes to mind when we portal into the metaverse is an invasion of privacy—though calling it an “invasion” is a bit of a stretch. After all, we’re all too eager to click that little “accept terms” box as we await the promises of internet entertainment.

Turns out, the biggest crimes on the block are perpetrated by big tech. If this were a Batman movie, the companies stealing your data for advertising purposes would be like the big baddie at the end. Imagine Lex Luthor sitting in his office chair, scrolling through your internet history and laughing maniacally.

And obviously, metaverse Batman would have no problem making light work of this chump, (even though it’s normally Superman’s job to take on Luthor).

But until then, we have to be weary. Some of these Big Tech companies, including the company behind Facebook—now known as Meta—have pledged to spend large amounts of money to keep your data safe and to keep the sharing of it ethical.

But if the incorruptible Commissioner Gordon has taught us anything, it’s how quickly those waters get murky when income is at stake.

Factoring the revenue Meta and other companies receive from exchanging data and advertising, it’s difficult to say how much of our interests they have at heart regarding privacy. That’s never been more true than now, in the wake of Facebook’s failed stablecoin launch and its stock value plummeting.

Fire up the digital Bat Signal, please.

The (Digital) Purge

If you’ve seen the film The Purge or any of its million sequels, you’ll know the premise is essentially a movie version of Grand Theft Auto (GTA). The premise rests on the fact that sometimes people just want to do bad things. In the fictional world of The Purge, that’s no big deal.

But in the metaverse—well, that’s a different story.

A quote from Digit paints a pretty valid picture of the problem at hand:

“Imagine if a group of men were to surround a woman on the street of your town, crowd around her, not allowing her to move away, and start using filthy language to intimidate and scare her, making threats of rape and molestation. Surely that counts as sexual assault, right? Now if the same were done to a female character in the metaverse, is that a crime? Shouldn’t it be?”

And if you think this isn’t happening, think again. A pretty disturbing incident of forced (digital) groping already made headlines at the end of 2021.

How do we answer these questions? Simplicity says that the victim should just log off, but the implication is that running away means digital scumbags and vagrants have free reign in the metaverse.

I mean, I loved Mad Max: Fury Road, but I sure don’t want to live that way. I just wouldn’t look as cool as Tom Hardy strapped to the front of a forty-five year old Camero, so what’s the point?

Hence, the need for a metaverse Batman becomes clearer. He doesn’t care about data. He cares about beating the megabytes out of bad actors and restoring justice.

Laws in the Digital Lands

If you murder someone in the real world, you’re looking at a potential jail sentence of life. In the metaverse, though, what would that even look like?

Since a lot of online gaming relies on violence to drive gameplay, it’s difficult to regulate what constitutes violence in the metaverse. Violence done to someone in real life warrants jail time, whereas metaverse misbehavior involves….

Being logged off? Getting booted from this expansive digital world? And even then, how long will it “stick?” It sounds bizarre that digital harassment gets evildoers put on a more robust “timeout.” I also find it pretty faulty that I get the same punishment for forgetting my Panera Bread loyalty login. Five attempts kicked me off. Now I’m cookie-free in this cruel world.

Compared to such a disastrous fate, Mad Max is looking pretty good right now.

Again, a metaverse Batman would be able to see some nuance and punish accordingly. Instead of getting the swift boot of cyber-justice, maybe dastards could be forced to listen to thirty consecutive minutes of all of the Batman actors trying to deepen their voices so they sound different from Bruce Wayne.

That’s enough to make me never want to commit a crime again.

We Wait for our Hero

If anyone is up to beating up blockchain bandits while users log off in peace, there’s room for you, metaverse Batman. Sometimes the hero we want isn’t the hero we need, but given all the potential for metaverse crime, whether on the corporate level or down on the cyber streets, the need for intervention is clear.

If there were such a person as metaverse Batman, perhaps my sister wouldn’t have dared to steal that Treasure Troll from the convenient store.

And maybe I’d be less traumatized now.

But don’t worry—my pants are still dry.

—————

If you think that crime in the metaverse is a little on the fringe, check out what happens when you try to bring your lost loved ones there.

Hey, crime and zombies aren’t the only things happening in the metaverse. You can get married there, too. Check out the pros and cons to marriage in the metaverse.

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