The “crimes of the Metaverse” and the capitalism of loneliness

New gadgets, old habits. Here comes social networking. It takes law for social networking. Blockchain and NFT come. It takes law for blockchain and Nft. The Metaverse comes. It takes (criminal) law for the Metaverse. The repetition compulsion for years forces commentators and experts to call for new regulations to be applied to technological products instead of noting that the existing ones are mainly sufficient by Andrea Monti – initially published in Italian on Strategikon – an Italian Tech Blog

These are the harms, not only cultural, of having considered “cyberspace” and other inventions in science fiction literature and genre cinema to be true (“ontologized,” philosophers would say). It took years to realize the obvious, namely that “defamation on Facebook” is a pure libel or that “an insult via Telegram” is an insult tout-court. In other words, what changes is how the wrongful acts are committed, but the effect is still the same. On the other hand, the “it takes a new law to…” approach would lead to the paradox of writing as many articles of the penal code as there are ways to kill someone. So instead of punishing murder regardless of the way it is committed, one would amend the penal code by adding an article for murder with a gun, one for murder with a knife, one for murder with poison, one for murder with a stick, one for murder with bare hands, and so on.

The Metaverse-whatever it is-does not escape this fate: “threats” and “violence” committed “against” our digitized replicas arouse the ever-present compulsion to repeat that leads to calls for new laws. But are they necessary? Definitely not, as far as an offence to honour and reputation is concerned because, as mentioned, even if committed “in the Metaverse,” this does not change the final effect, which involves a physical person. “Harassment” and “assault” produce an upheaval that (if demonstrable) certainly falls within the scope of private violence, threats, and – in the most serious cases – extortion (by the way, the same reasoning applies to the rules on “cyberbullying” and “cyberstalking”). It also goes without saying that violations of industrial property (reproducing trademarks on props bought and sold) and copyright are equally punishable under current regulations.

Net of ignorance about the functioning of these interactive electronic communication services, the reason behind the distorted call for the enactment of new laws is the prevalence given to the psychological perception of the phenomenon, neglecting its objective nature.

Using the “Metaverse” means, quite simply, connecting to a server and interacting with software or other people through the platform, alone like dogs in the privacy of one’s own room or – as the classics used to say – in a crowd. Presented this way, the appeal of the Metaverse collapses vertically, as in the days of jackets with shoulder pads. Appearances as an American football player or body builder dissolved after removing the cloth exoskeleton. Conversely, and this is the transformative force of such services, everything takes place “inside the head” of the individual, in a psychological dimension that affects only and exclusively those who experience it. Just as in the 1990s, the need to turn people into “consumers” was based on inducing the belief that one could be “unique” by buying mass-consumption products, in our times, the capitalism of loneliness is asserted based on exploiting herd isolation purposely provoked.

This is the only “reality”-not at all virtual-that matters; everything else, such as the Metaverse, is simply fiction.

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