AutomobileLawNews

Ethics and Legal Aspects of Virtual Worlds

VIRTUAL WORLDS AND ONLINE CRIMES

A number of cases of online crime have been presented in the media. The case of Mr. Bungle as described by Julian Dibbell in 1993 is probably the most famous case of crime in a virtual world. 119 Ethics and Legal Aspects of Virtual Worlds In this case a series of sexual assaults were carried out in the text-based online world LambdaMOO by a character called Mr. Bungle. The controller of this character carried out the assaults on other players using ‘voodoo dolls’, subprograms that attribute actions to other players’ characters that they did not intend. Mr. Bungle was actually controlled by several university students acting as one to direct the attacks.

The Bungle case is interesting because of the reported after-effects on the victims. One reported severe distress in the aftermath of the attack. Several other players reported their anger at the events, to the extent that many called for Mr. Bungle to be ‘toaded’ (banned from the virtual world, with the character itself deleted). The calls to toad Mr. Bungle led to debates within the world, with some arguing that in the virtual world, rape had not been criminalized, and so it could not be considered punishable.

ETHICS IN A VIRTUAL WORLD

The question of ethics in virtual worlds can draw some lessons from ontological theory and value pluralism. In other words, our view of what is ethical is informed by our worldview in the first instance and secondly that more than one system of values can exist simultaneously. Isaiah Berlin (1980) argued against the logical positivism which had come to dominate the study of politics and governance. His argument was that it could never account for questions such as what is justice.

When it comes to questions like this there is never a single answer so this leads to a variety of answers depending on the value systems in a given time and place. There can be no one value system that can accommodate all that is valuable. So there will be competing value systems even within the same community and at a given point in time. There is also no objective system.

to evaluate which is right and which is wrong (or less right!). Value systems are essential to the models through which we see ourselves and the world around us and they embody deeply held convictions. John Rawls (1973, 1996) sought to develop a theory of justice suitable for governing political communities in the light of irreconcilable moral disagreements. It was based on the basic conditions governing human behavior.

ETHICS IN A VIRTUAL WORLD

The question of ethics in virtual worlds can draw some lessons from ontological theory and value pluralism. In other words our view of what is ethical is informed by our world view in the first instance and secondly that more than one system of values can exist simultaneously. Isaiah Berlin (1980) argued against the logical positivism which had come to dominate the study of politics and governance. His argument was that it could never account for questions such as ‘what is justice’. When it comes to questions like this there is never a single answer so this leads to a variety of answers depending on the value systems in a given time and place.

There can be no one value system that can accommodate all that is valuable. So there will be competing value systems even within the same community and at a given point in time. There is also no objective system to evaluate which is right and which is wrong (or less right!). Value systems are essential to the models through which we see ourselves and the world around us and they embody deeply held convictions. John Rawls (1973, 1996) sought to develop a theory of justice suitable for governing political communities in the light of irreconcilable moral disagreements. It was based on the basic conditions governing human behavior.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button