Last week in Japan, a 43-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of "illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data." But that's not what the headlines are saying. "Online divorcee jailed after killing virtual hubby," is how the Associated Press described her crime, in keeping with several other news reports that refer to both a murder and a divorce that never existed. The way they phrased it is technically true, but a far cry from the real story, which isn't much of one.
The deal is, this woman was "married" to her victim in a "Second Life"-style game, and when he "divorced" her character without warning, she retaliated by using log-in information the man had given her to access his account and delete his avatar. Oh, the humanity! Forget "murder" -- that doesn't even sound like hacking to me. I'm no expert on Japanese law, but as far as I can tell from reports, she legally obtained the dude's password while they were still on good terms. You'd think it might have occurred to him to change it when he chose to put through their quickie "divorce," but he didn't -- and he was so pissed off when he found his avatar "dead" that he called the cops.
And then, somehow, this became a story about an enraged woman driven to "murder" -- even though she had zero plans for real-life revenge -- instead of about a nonviolent woman who played a jerky prank on a guy who was too stupid to protect his log-in information. Or, you know, ask her for a pretend divorce in the first place, which might have prevented the imaginary tragedy. I realize that the concept of "virtual murder" is so intriguing, it's hard not to write something about it (witness this post), but does it really have to be something that relies so heavily on stereotypes of women as emotionally unstable and obsessed with marriage? "Two people who need to get out more waste police officers' time" wouldn't make a very catchy headline, but at least that story wouldn't be just as fictional as the virtual "victim."