Human interaction and the metaverse

By Elisabeth Colson, Devry Smith Frank LLP

Is an offensive act perpetrated in the virtual world a crime? Should one’s avatar accurately depict one’s gender and race? Who will police the metaverse? These are questions to consider as people exchange live interaction for time spent in the virtual world.

Mind and body cannot readily differentiate between virtual experiences and the real world. Physiological and psychological responses to virtual events often are as intense as are those to real-life stimuli. Some victims of cyber-assault attest to having been so shaken that they were unable to implement the site's safety features. Studies show that behavioural changes that begin in the virtual environment often transfer to subsequent live interactions, possibly making the metaverse a training ground for socially unacceptable behaviour.

The world now embraces inclusivity – will the metaverse? It is possible to create avatars that are fictional characters. While this allows experimentation with gender identity in an anonymous and safe space, free of real-world prejudices, the same freedom can be used to appropriate, emulate, or imitate cultures about which one knows little. For example, when a white fashion photographer created the fictitious Black personality Shudu Gram, some argued that this misrepresentation, catfishing, digital blackface, and identity tourism could become prevalent in a world where no one need answer to anyone.

No single body now monitors the metaverse for user rights and safety. Jurisdiction, territoriality, and conflicts of laws within and across virtual worlds must be addressed. It follows that criminal or abusive acts are likely to be enhanced without an established legal framework with impactful consequences.

The metaverse will evolve and grow. It is the collective responsibility of all governments and of all users to make it as safe as possible, creating an extended reality to work for our betterment, and not to empower our harm or our manipulation.

Elisabeth Colson

Elisabeth Colson

GGI member firm
Devry Smith Frank LLP
Law Firm Services
Toronto, Barrie and Whitby, Canada
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is a full-service Ontario-based Canadian law firm of over 70 lawyers. DSF has provided approachable, professional, and affordable service to its business, personal, and institutional clients since 1964.

Fluent in English and French, Elisabeth Colson is a member of the Bars of Quebec and Ontario. She is a Partner with Devry Smith Frank LLP and has extensive experience in a wide range of business law matters, including mergers and acquisitions, private placements, franchising, corporate reorganisations, and shareholder agreements.

Published: Best Practices for Professional Service Oranisations News, No. 02, Autumn 2022 Illustration: supamotion -

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