How Will the Real World Deal with Virtual Crime?

 - May 11, 2007
A prosecutor in Halle in Germany is investigating a group of pedophiles that have been hunting for prey in playgrounds, buying child pornography, and participating in group rapes of young teenagers. This is not happening in real life but in the virtual world of Second Life.

Trendhunter has previously discussed sexual assaults in virtual worlds like AutoAdmit and Second Life. This is another type of virtual sex crimes. According to the German TV-program Report Mainz Second Life is crowded with pedophiles. Among the events is a clip where a pedophile enters a virtual playground approaching a little girl, offering her money for a kiss, where ever she likes. Then they disappear together. In another clip you can see a 13 year old teenage girl in a white dress in her bedroom. She is being raped by a group of men while others stand by watching.

While most people must agree on how wrong and immoral these acts are, it is questionable if they are illegal or not. No child has been exploited in reality. No real child pornography has been distributed. It is all virtual. If people can be prosecuted for this, can we risk being prosecuted for murder and reckless driving in Grand Theft Auto? I guess the police might have difficulties in haunting down the predators in this game. The authorities in this case must be the ones responsible for the game. According to Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, players have previously been expelled from the game because of child pornography.

It will be interesting to see how the real worlds and virtual worlds will be mixing in the future. We have seen reality law suits because of virtual thefts and sales of even whole virtual cities for real money. Can people be charged for causing psychological harm through virtual worlds? Can police and investigators take on cases in computer games? These are probably just the first of many dilemmas that will arise because of virtual activity and the blurry border between virtual and real life.