Clickable Culture   Official Research Blog of Phantom Compass
  Child Porn Panic Hits ‘Second Life’  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-10 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
As recently reported in the Second Life Herald, Second Life Insider, and acknowledged by Linden Lab, German TV network ARD has revealed Second Life depictions of child porn to national viewers and authorities.

Linden Lab explained yesterday that it was contacted last week by ARD, which presented footage of an adult and child avatar "engaged in depicted sexual conduct." The virtual-world maker assured readers of its blog that both participants were adults, and were "immediately banned from Second Life." Apparently, an ARD reporter also found pictures inside the virtual world described as "sexual photographs involving a child," and ARD reportedly handed over the images to German authorities. Linden Lab's requests for the location of the photos in-world have not been responded to, according to the company's blog.

Linden Lab asserted yesterday that it has a "zero tolerance" policy for depictions of child pornography within its virtual world, stating that it is "exceedingly rare" to receive reports of such depictions, and that it has "immediately removed" such depictions when informed about them. Presumably that means depictions of child porn are exceedingly rarely removed, even though Second Life's so-called "age play" scene--which involves non-sexual as well as sexual role-play ostensibly among consenting adults--has been discussed in the mainstream media for at least a year.

Daniel Terdiman, a CNET News.com reporter who reported on the "age play" scene last year, indicated in an interview that Linden Lab approached him about the subject prior to the story being published. According to Terdiman, the company encouraged him to speak directly with residents involved in "age play," which in my opinion suggests Linden Lab wasn't greatly concerned about the issue at the time. What a difference a year makes. Yesterday, Linden Lab stated "We simply will not tolerate the depiction of sexual or lewd acts involving minors in Second Life."

Linden Lab promised yesterday to drop the hammer on those involved in "the depiction of sexual or lewd acts involving minors," promising to terminate accounts and "fully cooperate with all appropriate authorities." Furthermore, the company said that if real-world child porn is discovered in the possession of users, it would terminate the accounts and provide personal details to real-world authorities (a long-standing policy, according to Linden Lab).

Despite its strong words, I don't believe that Linden Lab actively or consistently polices Second Life--the virtual world is just too big. Instead, the company employs a system of "Abuse Reports," whereby users of the virtual world file complaints about such things as harassment, litter, "adult" content, and trademark infringement. Through a pending "Estate Level Governance" program, Abuse Reports will actually be sent to virtual land owners rather than Linden Lab, distancing the company further from what goes on inside Second Life. In a recent announcement about an identity-verification policy, the company appeared to alleviate itself completely of legal responsibility, stating that users "are morally and legally responsible for the content displayed and the behavior taking place on their land."

Unfortunately, a vast majority of Second Life users don't have the means to watch over their virtual land around the clock. Without constant supervision, it's practically impossible to stop illegal acts from transpiring on one's virtual land. The way I see it, Linden Lab can't effectively police Second Life, but neither can its customers. Who, then, is truly responsible for such acts as depictions or possession of child pornography in Second Life?
 
     
 
   
 
   
  9 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by Adri
May 10, 2007 @ 11:21 am
     
 
You know, it's a crazy, crazy thought, but maybe the people depicting and/or distributing and consuming child porn are the ones truly responsible?
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Brace Coral
May 11, 2007 @ 1:21 pm
     
 
my take on this is simple.

There are two separate issues here.

One is two legal age constenting adults engaging in a form of sexual roleplay

the other is someone else possessing and/or distributing RL kiddie pr0n pics

There may or may not be overlaps with these two categories.

Are there people in the second category who play around in the first category?

Are there people in the first category who play around in the second category?

Should LL have responded to that tv show the way they did?

Did the 57 and 27 year old people who were banned break any LL TOS and/or laws in the countries in which they reside?

Does Age Role Play automatically mean child pornography ie actions resulting in the harm of a minor?

Do I think its cool that LL set things up for this type of hooplah to happen and then turn around try to make residents responsible for any mess cleanup?
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
May 11, 2007 @ 2:22 pm
     
 
Did the 57 and 27 year old people who were banned break any LL TOS and/or laws in the countries in which they reside?


And if they live in countries where their activities aren't illegal but conflict with the laws in the U.S. or Germany, what then?

Does Age Role Play automatically mean child pornography ie actions resulting in the harm of a minor?


In some jurisdictions, the answer is apparently: Yes. More and more the issue seems to be "do we approve of the behavior" rather than "is there a victim".
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by bunnyhero
May 13, 2007 @ 6:17 pm
     
 
it's interesting to note that there will be no child avatars in playstation home, at all, from what i've read.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
May 16, 2007 @ 11:28 pm
     
 
Anyone know if it's true the Gorean sims are being investigated? I don't know much about Gor culture but I assume some of the "slaves" are on the young side.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Jessica Holyoke
May 20, 2007 @ 12:00 pm
     
 
Csven,

In my investigations of Gor, I have not seen any child avatars. The Sim rules that allow for child avatars clearly state that there are to be no sexual activities wtih child avatars.

Now, if you are making a distinction between pre-teen and late teen, that's something different. All of the slaves look young and pretty,much like most of SL, but I've never seen one that looks less than 18.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Jessica Holyoke
May 20, 2007 @ 12:01 pm
     
 
Csven again,

Why should Gor be singled out for investigation? If someone were wanting to escape detection, they wouldn't go to a place where people are already investigating.

I'm not saying that Gor is without problems, of which I've written about before. Only that their illegal activity lies in copyright law, not morality.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by csven
May 20, 2007 @ 3:47 pm
     
 
Jessica,

I don't know. I'm just asking if it's true. Only thing I do know is that a fair number of Second Life users find the Gorean sims offensive. Very offensive.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Jessica Holyoke
May 20, 2007 @ 8:23 pm
     
 
As far as I know,

1. No governtmental entity is investigating the Goreans on a society harm basis, ie, objectification of women.

2. The only copyright holder investigation of the Goreans regards previously reported instances of wholesale copying of the John Norman books. On some Gorean Sims, it was possible to get entire copies of the novels on notecards.

3. The copyright holder is not investigating any further derivative copyright violation, such as roleplay or the slave trade. (Posted about previously on SL Herald.)

4. No government agency is known to be investigating the Goreans for copyright infringement.

And I realize that the Goreans are offensive to some people in SL. Someone named Prok taught me that.
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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