Murder of virtual avatar, real punishment?

Two weeks ago, a 43-year old Japanese woman has been jailed for the murder of her virtual divorced husband. Her avatar was married to a avatar in “Maple Story“, a kind of Korean Second Life. Her virtual husband divorced without notifications. As retaliation, she logged in the account of the owner of her divorced avatar and destroyed the avatar. It seems that he shared with her his account login credentials.

She has been charged for illegal computer access and destruction of digital information. She may face up to five year jail or $5000 (3500€) fine. Interestingly, if her avatar would have killed her divorced avatar within the metaverse, then she would not be prosecuted. Death in metaverses is common. You may murder in Second Life. You may be killed by monsters or other characters in World Of Warcraft. That is the game. But here, she destroyed the avatar data (different from killing the avatar). An avatar may represent a lot of time investment, emotional investment and sometimes even monetary investment. The death (following metaverse’s rules) of an avatar may be accepted by his owner (sometimes with difficulty). But this destruction of data may represent a moral wrong and even financial loss.

Regardless of the morale judgment of this story, this story highlights a coming big problem. How will real world rule the interaction with metaverses. Metaverses will take an increasing importance in our life. Current regulations are not adapted to this coming challenge. Even metaverses are not ready. Many challenges for security in these worlds are needed. In many cases, the threats will come from the real world.

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