Germany Declares War on Second Life
This has been a strange week for physical / virtual country relations. In a series of news reports from around the globe, the interactions between the physical, European country Germany, and the virtual, cyberspace country Second Life, have been growing more warlike and antagonistic by the day.
This sudden influx of German residents into Second Life, to the point that they eclipsed any other single natyionality, including the one native to the developing company, Linden Labs, truly set the stage for the German government's profound interest in the activities of their citizenry within this virtual space.
This is where things start to get sticky. Which actual set of laws is involved here? Second Life is nominally based in the US, but has members from all over the world. As the comScore report showed, hundreds of thousands from all different countries with entirely different sets of laws.
Child pornography is truly reprehensible, of that there is no doubt. However, it can occur anywhere, online or off. To take the stance of blaming the virtual world management when it crops up there, is as wrong as it would be to directly blame the german government for a stash in a private house in Berlin.
Another issue that rears up is what happens if the person responsible turns out to physiccally reside in an Asian country where perhaps they have no laws against this sort of thing - unlikely but it is possible. This kind of issue crosses many physical country borders, even if it only crosses one virtual country border.
Splinter Issues: Age Play Concerns
Despite Second Life not allowing membership to the main world, to anyone below the age of 18, allegations of 'child rape' have started to circulate, based on sexual relations between adult avatars anbd child avatars - despite both sides being adults.
The first question that has to be asked at this point, is how can a sexual act that takes place in a graphics and text VR world - one with no haptic feedback, ergo no actual sex organ use - and one in which both parties are consentual, and over the age of consent for their respective physical countries be considered 'child rape' in any way, shape or form?
Second Life Actions
The end result of this particular strife between the physical and virtual worlds is that Second Life has relented to what is in effect, an utterly unwieldy and unworkable 'age verification system', that is easily bypassed. Nothing is really solved, since the virtual world was not at fault in the first place.
This marks a continuing trend to legislate the virtual, based on the actions of a few in the physical.
Surely it would make more sense to punish the criminals themselves, rather than blaming the environment for actions of people beyond it's control?