INTERPOL enters the Metaverse

In a Friday Fast Company interview with Unity CEO and metaverse proponent John Riccitiello, he gave a rather refreshingly honest take on what the metaverse actually could mean in practical terms. It could be something as simple as simulating car crashes for the sake of safety tests, but he said some of the other big ticket promotions like Zuckerberg’s beloved avatars doesn’t matter much. Fake people walking around a 3D environment might well be a distraction that takes away from more alternate reality-type experiences, like visiting a hotel room before you book it.


What Kinds of Crimes Are Coming to the Metaverse?

Interpol references its own global crime trend report to show that many of the most imminent international crime threats are happening online. These include ransomware, online scams, hacks, and more. The agency expects more crime in the metaverse involving crimes against children, data theft, money laundering, fraud, counterfeiting, sexual assault, and more. Early reports from Horizon Worlds show servers are already full up with people sexually harassing other users and using casually racist language.


In May, the World Economic Forum worked with several tech companies in its effort to define the metaverse where they noted obvious risks for users, including social engineering scams and even more misinformation.

And as much as this seems like an indictment of the metaverse, Interpol noted, “some of these threats are likely to present significant challenges, because not all acts that are criminalized in the physical world are considered crimes when committed in the virtual world.” Madan Oberoi, the agency’s director of technology, said by getting in early, they can “work with stakeholders to shape the necessary governance frameworks and cut off future criminal markets before they are fully formed.”


Though Interpol isn’t exactly clean as far as past actions are concerned. They have been criticized for acting on behalf of oppressive regimes like Russia and for issuing red notices to political dissidents from Syria and Iran and to the repressed Uyghur population in China. Even though Interpol has a stated position of political neutrality, such a police force that’s beholden to member countries’ whims may also be able to use metaverse technology to track political refugees.

Though much of this crime is happening outside any sort of virtual world, and despite promotions that seem to put more junk media tie-ins and commonly-used programs into a 3D environment, that hasn’t really been the case for crime, not when regular cyber crime is so lucrative. For example, crypto scammers and hackers are on track to make a record amount of money this year. Hackers have made well over $3 billion so far this year from crypto-related projects.