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Interpol Is Looking Toward Policing The Metaverse

Safety in our ever-growing online spaces continues to be of importance and now Interpol is looking toward the future of the metaverse

Photo Credit: Scott Rodgerson

The global police agency Interpol is investigating how the organisation could police crime in the metaverse. 

The metaverse, while widely discussed, is currently not fully realised. The end game goal seems to be something that would resemble Ernest Cline’s Ready Player one. A place where users can escape the real world in favour of a virtual one. Here users can explore and socialise, and be who they want to be. 

While we may not be at a Ready Player One level just yet, the metaverse journey is well underway. Big names such as Meta are devoting time and money to its creation and we already see popular games such as The Sandbox establishing themselves. Even the likes of Epic‘s Fortnite are quickly becoming more in line with that of a metaverse experience.

Policing the metaverse

Interpol has built its very own virtual reality space where police can train and attend virtual meetings. This secure environment enables police officers to experience what the metaverse could become. In turn, this gives them a sense of the types of crimes that could occur there and how they could be policed. 

While gaming is deeply rooted in the ideals of the metaverse, its potential goes far beyond that. Due to the pandemic, we are already accustomed to more virtual spaces, be it for a quick zoom call to do a quiz with a friend or entire workplace meetings that happen in a virtual space. While these advances are creating a streamlined and convenient experience, there are also safety concerns. 

As with all social spaces, there is the possibility of meeting the wrong types of people or falling victim to a crime. In the real world these matters can be reported to the police, however how the law translates into the virtual world is somewhat of a grey area. There have already been reports of sexual harassment in the metaverse and cyberbullying could be taken to a whole new level this more immersive space.

Adapting to the times

Speaking to the BBC on the idea of policing the metaverse Interpol secretary general Jurgen Stock said “Criminals are sophisticated and professional and very quickly adapting to any new technological tool that is available to commit crime. We need to sufficiently respond to that. Sometimes lawmakers, police, and our societies are running a little bit behind.” 

Others have followed similar lines of looking toward policing the metaverse and how it could work. The difficulty is, how to police a virtual world and how our real-world laws apply in these spaces. There is also the issue of privacy, as many take to the internet and particularly metaverse-like experiences to detach from the real world. 

Interpol’s executive director of technology and innovation, Dr. Madan Oberoi spoke on the matter of defining a metaverse crime saying, “There are crimes where I don’t know whether it can still be called a crime or not. For example, there have been reported cases of sexual harassment. If you look at the definitions of these crimes in physical space, and you try to apply it in the metaverse, there is a difficulty. We don’t know whether we can call them a crime or not, but those threats are definitely there, so those issues are yet to be resolved.”

Raising awareness

A big step toward finding solutions to crimes committed in the metaverse will come down to awareness. Firstly for those who venture into these worlds. While virtual worlds provide us with a space to escape from, the users within those worlds are real people. Therefore the interactions we have also need to represent the same respect that should be shown in a real-world situation. Many feel that their actions online have no repercussions and that narrative needs to change, first by raising awareness and in the future by possible new laws for these spaces. 

Dr. Oberoi spoke on the sense of awareness in the metaverse stating that “My typically used example is that if you have to save a drowning person, you need to know swimming. Similarly, if law enforcement is interested to help people who have been hurt in the metaverse, they need to know about the metaverse. And that is one of our objectives – to make sure law enforcement personnel start using the metaverse and they become aware. In that sense, it is very important.” 

Co-founder and head of metaverse research organisation Kabuni, Nina Jane Patel spoke on the matter highlighting that “That which is illegal and harmful in the physical world should be illegal in the virtual synthetic world as well. In this realm of convergence, we will be in a very difficult position if we can treat each other in a certain way in the virtual world, but not in the physical world. And we’ll be causing a lot of disconnection and miscommunication between what’s acceptable human behaviour in our digital world and our physical world.”

Written By

Paige Cook is a writer with a multi-media background. She has experience covering video games and technology and also has freelance experience in video editing, graphic design, and photography. Paige is a massive fan of the movie industry and loves a good TV show, if she is not watching something interesting then she's probably playing video games or buried in a good book. Her latest addiction is virtual photography and currently spends far too much time taking pretty pictures in games rather than actually finishing them.

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