The idea of a policed Metaverse might seem at odds with the very definition of decentralisation, but a recently released statement by INTERPOL suggests that’s exactly what we might be getting. Exactly how The International Criminal Police Organisation will be able to hunt down criminals in a virtual space remains to be seen, but it’s been busy developing the tools and infrastructure required.
The problem with Metaverse “crime”
INTERPOL was already dabbling with virtual spaces last year, launching its own VR training room to help officers “understand the Metaverse” so that they might police it. They also issued a “red notice” warrant for Do Kwon and representatives speak frequently about the possibility of crimes in virtual spaces. As well as the usual list of frauds, scams and rug pulls, crimes like harassment, verbal abuse and stalking would also theoretically fall under the jurisdiction of law enforcement.
Since the Metaverse defies borders, this naturally demands an international response, but INTERPOL’s most pressing difficulty might be determining what constitutes a crime in the first place. Executive director of technology and innovation at Interpol, Madan Oberoi, admits that crimes like assault and harassment are much harder to define in a virtual space. By his own admission: “not all acts that are criminalised in the physical world are considered crimes when committed in the virtual world.”
Establishing those definitions will be the first step. INTERPOL has set up an “Expert Group on the Metaverse” and teamed up with Microsoft, Meta and the World Economic Forum to create this framework. Between them, these organisations will define what actually constitutes a crime in a virtual world. Expect these definitions to take some time, but even then INTERPOL is currently limited by the enforcement tools at its disposal.
A statement describes how law enforcement is often caught playing “catch-up” as technology advances. INTERPOL hopes to remain ahead of the curve and develop the “tools, processes, and procedures” before they are needed, giving them a head start. This will likely involve mechanisms for tracking virtual criminals across borders and sophisticated anti-money laundering tools similar to those employed to trace funds after high profile hacks. It looks as though INTERPOL’s Metaverse crime squad will be a dedicated unit working independently of - but linked to - the wider organisation, proof of the Metaverse’s importance.