A Note by Doyeon Oh

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A conception of digital worlds in the form of virtual and augmented realities has been a science-fiction vision since the 20th century.[1] As of 2023, that vision has become more than just a reality.[2] Established tech giants like Meta and Google are already taking the next step in developing the “metaverse”—a universal platform promising a fully immersive real-life experience within a network of multiple virtual worlds.[3] Theoretically, the metaverse will allow users, or their “avatars,” to live, work, and socialize as they would in the real world.[4] Casual users may think of it as a “digital playground;” others may see potential business opportunities.[5] Ideas of its use are limitless and exciting,[6] and the metaverse hype seems more than deserving.            

However, this exciting prospect brings forth a dangerously overshadowed issue: violent crimes.[7] With the creation of an entirely new world that may inevitably become a part of many people’s lives, opportunities to commit violent crimes with ease will undoubtedly arise.[8] The question is whether developers will recognize them as legitimate crimes in the first place, as it is technically the avatars that are being harmed, not the user.[9] If a user’s avatar violently assaults another’s so as to intentionally cause severe emotional distress, should the crime be treated how it would be if it occurred in the real world?[10] If not, how would such implications affect the development and success of the metaverse?

[1] See generally Linda Tucci, What Is the Metaverse? An Explanation and In-depth Guide, TECHTARGET (Nov. 18, 2022),

[2] See Hall Koss, What Is the Metaverse, Really?, BUILTIN (Oct. 6, 2022),

[3] Tucci, supra note 1.

[4] Id.

[5] What Is the Metaverse?, MCKINSEY & CO. (Aug. 17, 2022),

[6] Id.

[7] See Pin Lean Lau, The Metaverse: Three Legal Issues We Need to Address, CONVERSATION (Feb. 1, 2022, 9:44 AM),

[8] See id.

[9] See Ben C. Cheong, Avatars in the Metaverse: Potential Legal Issues and Remedies, 3 INT’L CYBERSECURITY L. REV. 467, 472 (2022).

[10] See Lau, supra note 7.