Metaverse concept

Interpol is researching how to police the metaverse, reports say

Image credit: Dreamstime

Interpol secretary general Jurgen Stock has told BBC the global police agency is investigating how it could tackle crime in the metaverse.

The International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO), or Interpol, is investigating how to secure the metaverse.

According to BBC, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock revealed the agency’s intent to oversee criminal activities in the metaverse. Stock highlighted the ability of “sophisticated and professional” criminals to adapt to new technological tools for committing crimes.

The metaverse is an immersive platform where people can collaborate, socialise and become part of a shared experience. Caitlyn Ryan, EMEA VP of Meta’s Creative Shop, has defined the it as “a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with people who aren’t in the same physical space as you." 

Interpol's revelation that it is investigating ways to police the metaverse comes nearly four months after the organisation launched its own virtual office in October 2022 at the 90th Interpol General Assembly in New Delhi, India.

In this virtual reality space, Interpol users can carry out training and attend virtual meetings.

Interpol office in the metaverse

Interpol office in the metaverse / Interpol

Image credit: Interpol

Speaking with the BBC, Stock said it is important for the agency to not get left behind. 

"Criminals are sophisticated and professional in very quickly adapting to any new technological tool that is available to commit crime," he said.

"We need to sufficiently respond to that. Sometimes lawmakers, police, and our societies are running a little bit behind.

"We have seen if we are doing it too late, it already impacts trust in the tools we are using, and therefore the metaverse. In similar platforms that already exist, criminals are using it."

The environment, which can only be accessed through secure servers, enables police officers to experience what the metaverse could be like, giving them a sense of the crimes that could occur and how they could be policed.

Many brands, including Coca-Cola, Nike and Disney, are also creating experiences in the metaverse, with reports suggesting that the total value of the metaverse is forecast to hit $36bn by 2025. However, the virtual space is still not well understood.

Dr Madan Oberoi, Interpol's executive director of technology and innovation, admits there are issues with defining a metaverse crime.

"There are crimes where I don't know whether it can still be called a crime or not," he said.

"For example, there have been reported cases of sexual harassment. We don't know whether we can call them a crime or not, but those threats are definitely there, so those issues are yet to be resolved."

As the number of metaverse users grows and the technology further develops, the list of possible digital offences could include crimes against children, data theft, money laundering, financial fraud, counterfeiting, ransomware, phishing, and sexual assault and harassment.

Last year, the World Economic Forum announced it had partnered with Interpol, Meta, Microsoft and others in an initiative to define and govern the metaverse. 

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