• 15May

    I have to say, the topic of this post is practically old hat by now: Robin Linden’s post from May 9, Accusations Regarding Child Pornography in Second Life. When I started writing this, it was brand-new hat; yet, countless revisions and edits later, I serve as a textbook case of being timely versus being thought-out.

    I’ll just say I’m being fashionably late. Onward we go!

    (Fair warning: you should probably get your tongue limbered up, because you’ll need to insert it firmly in-cheek before the end. I wouldn’t want you to get a cramp, you know.)

    There are really several different issues being discussed in Robin Linden’s post: simulated child porn, real child porn, sexual ageplay, and measures to prevent minors from accessing the main grid. Robin Linden stirs these disparate topics together with the greatest of ease. Encouraged, Residents took the opportunity to inject their own selection of tangentially-related topics into the conversation; a significant number lamented about the presence of any child avatars at all—even child avatars who don’t engage in any sexual activity!

    (Apparently, in the opinions of those Residents, even child-avatars playing on a virtual playground should be permanently banned: any adult who wants to re-live childhood is obviously just some sort of pervert, right? Never mind all that nonsense about being “innocent until proven guilty”; it’s much easier to nip it in the bud by banning people before they do anything wrong!)

    Of course, the anti-playtime crowd can take comfort in Linden Lab’s highly-enthusiastic action against the two accused Residents. Note that they were immediately banned on the basis of engaging in simulated sex between an adult avatar and a child-like avatar, and not for possession of real child pornography—instances of which Linden Lab says it has been unable to locate!

    From the blog post:

    On Thursday May 3, we were contacted by German television network, ARD, which had captured images of two avatars, one that resembled an adult male and another that resembled a child, engaged in depicted sexual conduct. Our investigations revealed the users behind these avatars to be a 54-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman. Both were immediately banned from Second Life.

    During a subsequent interview with ARDís Report Mainz documentary on Friday May 4, which aired Monday, the reporter presented photographs that he said were found in Second Life and that appeared to include sexual photographs involving a child….

    Despite requests, neither ARD nor the Germany authorities have yet disclosed to us the location of the photographic images in question, and we have not been able to independently locate them.

    The phrase in the first paragraph, “captured images of two avatars”, suggests that the images that were used as a justification for the ban were not photographs of actual children. Either an ARD reporter took snapshots of a sexual ageplay session in-progress, or the reporter obtained snapshots distributed by other people. In either case, the events as presented are strictly in the realm of simulated child pornography, which involves no real children.

    If the users were citizens of a country such as Germany, which prohibits the viewing of simulated child pornography, then the sexual ageplay session was probably in violation of local law (and thus the ban and legal investigation are quite justified). Yet, there is no mention of the nationality of the two Residents; also absent is any mention of what, exactly, the Residents were banned for.

    Not that Linden Lab needs a reason to ban someone, of course; in the Terms of Service, they reserve the right to ban anyone for any or no reason, and especially if they do any of the following things (emphasis is mine):

    (iii) take any action or upload, post, e-mail or otherwise transmit Content that violates any law or regulation; (iv) take any action or upload, post, e-mail or otherwise transmit Content as determined by Linden Lab at its sole discretion that is harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, causes tort, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable; [Terms of Service, Section 4.1]

    So if the accused Residents were not in violation of some local law, another option is that Linden Lab has determined the action/content to be harmful, obscene, or otherwise objectionable. If that is the case, it would seem that Linden Lab was not acting as enforcer of the laws of nations, but rather as keeper of the public morality— watch out, kiddies, the Censor has deemed sexual ageplay to be a no-no!

    One resident reports that this is a complete about-face for Linden Lab, which has historically been rather laissez-faire about what goes on in its users’ skyboxes. The obvious (though perhaps hasty) conclusion is that media pressure on a sensitive topic makes the difference. This raises the distinct possibility of Linden Lab making a sudden crackdown, without warning, on any practice that they (or the media) deem to be sufficiently objectionable. Needless to say, this is a chilling turn of events for any Resident who engages in “non-vanilla” sexual roleplay like BDSM or yiff.

    Really, though, what the blog post tells us is that Linden Lab wants to appear the hero for the media and the public. Hurrah for Linden Lab, give them all medals, they’ve helped prosecute two pervertedly playful potential pedophiles! As for age verification, it has only one connection to the issue: it’s about “protecting the children from sex”. Heaven forbid that a curious young teen accidently discover the location of the clitoris!

    Anyway, you can go to bed care-free tonight, because Linden Lab is working diligently to ensure that there is no connection between the topics of adults having sex and children. (Phew, that’s a relief!)

    Posted by Jacek Antonelli @ 3:34 am

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