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Virtual pedophilia on Second Life

Second Life Child

Almost everyone agrees that having sex with children is wrong and should be illegal. But what about sex with virtual online children? Second Life, an online virtual world in which people live out a "second life" as a cybercharacter, is working with German police to identify members who pay for sex with virtual children. A German news program's investigative report discovered "age play" groups that center on abuse of cyberchildren. An investigator also found a group that trades both virtual and real images of child pornography.

Creepy. It raises the question of whether, in the United States, virtual child pornography is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution, which enshrines freedom of speech. One of the primary reasons for prohibiting traditional child pornography—as stated in Supreme Court rulings—is that its creation intrinsically involves the abuse of children. But the production of virtual child porn doesn't necessarily require the abuse of real children.

A debate similar to this one, about whether virtual rape is a crime, can be found on Wired's Web site and on the Freakonomics blog.

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