Crime in virtual worlds

Crime in Virtual Worlds
A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via “avatars”. These avatars are usually depicted as textual, two- dimensional, or three-dimensional graphical representations. The most popular is Second Life that was launched in 2003, today “inhabited” by 16 million avatars.

In online games an avatar interacts with other avatars like a mirror of human beings behaviors and are allowed to build virtual objects with defined economic values. Virtual currency supports commerce that offers virtual objects for sale. Exchange of virtual currency to real-world currency is also established.

Most offences in the virtual worlds may be covered by existing real worlds criminal legislations, such as forgery and illegal interference, in addition to copyright laws. But the development of virtual worlds must be followed very closely, because the borders between real and virtual worlds are diminishing. If special legal interests needs protection by criminal law, special legal measures may be necessary. Such interests would be global, and a global harmonization should be developed in a Model Law.

Crime in social networks
Social networks services are building online communities of individuals that shares common interests or activities, or like to interchange information with friends. The most important global social networking services are Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Facebook became the largest and fastest growing site in the world from 2006 and has now more than 300 million users. In some countries more than 50% of the population are weekly, and 1/3 daily on Facebook. The term Facebook generation is commonly used as a description of this phenomenon.

Social networks are also used by criminals for crimes such as identity theft and fraudulent activities. Individuals are lured by “friends” to deliver financial and personal information , or to visit fake websites. Instances of sending money to «friends» in need have also been common.

Many ordinary traditional crimes may be carried out through social network services. Bullying has also caused suicide through MySpace in 2006. Most offences on social networks may be covered by criminal legislation, such as fraud and identity theft. Information posted on such sites has been used in criminal investigation and presented in court.

Crime through “cloud computing”
Cloud computing are means to provide remote services over the Internet. Users have no knowledge of, or expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure in the “cloud” that support them. Cloud computing does not allow users to physically possess the storage of their data, and the user leave the responsibility of data storage and control to the provider.

The “cloud” may be the ultimate form of globalization, since it could cover many borders and regions. The users could be offered to select “availability zones” around the world. That may create great concern for investigation and prosecution of criminal acts, and global harmonizing of procedural laws must be considered.

Cloud computing may challenge the traditional jurisdictional solutions for cybercrime. Problems may occur with regard to multi-jurisdictional crime scenarios, involving countries in more than one region and possibly selected “availability zones” countries. These problems may only be solved through a global Convention or Protocol that includes necessary jurisdictional provisions under international law for serious crimes in cyberspace, whether or not they were possible to prosecute under national law.