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virtual world murder – real world consequences October 24, 2008

Posted by Bradley in : Uncategorized , trackback

It seems that a women has been arrested in Japan for using a borrowed (without consent) password to access Maple Story and kill the avatar who had just divorced her avatar, because she was extremely angry about the divorce. The news story headlines describe this as “online ‘murder'” (Guardian) although the text of the stories makes it clear that she was arrested for the hacking, rather than for the murder – a much less interesting – even uninteresting – story, as the article in the Independent (headlined with a reference to “murder by mouse”) points out, as does Greg Lastowka at Terranova. The Guardian article states that:

Bad online behaviour is usually dealt with within the rules set up by online worlds, which can ban miscreants or confiscate their virtual possessions…virtual crimes can also have consequences in reality.

This seems to me to miss the point if the arrest is for the hacking (a real world act, if you like) rather than for the avatar destruction.

The Fox news version of the story makes a link with other examples where “virtual lives have had consequences in the real world” – and here there is perhaps more to say. Rejection in a virtual world may be harder to take than participants might anticipate. But the purpose of the news stories seems to be the usual virtual world sensationalism rather than anything real. Is this really a more interesting story than if a spurned partner slashes her ex-partner’s suits? And is it more appropriate for criminal law enforcers to intervene in a domestic dispute involving hacking than in one involving hacking jackets?

On the other hand, perhaps we need the distraction of stories like this in the middle of the financial market rollercoaster ride.


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