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Crime In The Virtual World


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Crime in the virtual world

PM - Friday, 11 May , 2007 18:44:32

Reporter: Nicola Fell

 

MARK COLVIN: Is a crime committed online in a virtual world also a crime in the real world?

 

That's the question central to a child abuse case in Germany involving activities on the online computer game Second Life.

 

Nicola Fell reports.

 

(excerpt from German news program Report Mainz)

 

NICOLA FELL: This German news program Report Mainz has disclosed that on the website Second Life, virtual adults, or avatars - as they're known, are having sex with virtual children. The reporter on the program, who's also a Second Life member, found that for around $3 he was being invited to attend virtual child pornography meetings.

 

The police in the German city of Halle are currently investigating.

 

Brett Hutchins, New Media Lecturer at Monash University, says he's not surprised by the case.

 

BRETT HUTCHINS: The people who run Second Life, Linden Lab, have effectively created an online playground where people can create their own features. So their own real estate night, their own islands, and their own nightclubs. It's resulted in an enormously unpredictable and quite creative world.

 

You can actually simulate your avatars having sex. That has been one of the faster growing areas. Partly that's been based on the relative freedom and the lack of inhibition that people can express when it's not their faces or names, it's their avatar, it's a digital projection of themselves.

 

NICOLA FELL: Brett Hutchins says when you put five million people on a single site, it's no surprise that deviant or offensive behaviour happens. The question is when does it become illegal?

 

While it seems that virtual depictions of child pornography in the United States are not illegal, Conor O'Brien from the Victoria Law Society believes that here in Australia it would be.

 

CONOR O'BRIEN: Section 67 of the Victorian Crimes Act defines child pornography as a film, photograph, publication or computer game that describes or depicts a person who is or appears to be a minor engaging in sexual activity.

 

So from that it's a very, very specifically drafted definition, and anybody who falls foul of that can be charged.

 

In the situation where we have virtual sex, if it's an adult who's pretending to be a child, then there's an arguable case that a person could be found guilty of producing child pornography.

 

NICOLA FELL: So will we see more police investigations into virtual crime in the future?

 

CONOR O'BRIEN: If one looks at other crimes that might be committed by avatars or virtual characters, and the general run of the mill crime might be a theft or an assault or something like that, if one avatar steals from another avatar, then obviously commonsense would prevail and say, well, there was nothing actually stolen.

 

And likewise, if there are two consenting adults or consenting avatars, if you like, who decide that they're going to have some sort of duel and someone gets killed, then obviously one can't go around charging one avatar, or the person who produces that avatar, with some sort of murder.

 

So it seems to me that this isn't the tip of the iceberg.

 

NICOLA FELL: While lawyer Conor O'Brien doesn't expect to see a rise in virtual crime, Brett Hutchins says we are already living with it.

 

BRETT HUTCHINS: I mean, virtual crime is simply an extension of existing crime. I mean, identity theft increasingly costs the Australian economy more money each year, cyber bullying, cyber harassment, these type of things.

 

So what the difference is in some ways is that it's taking place within a different media environment to which most people are familiar, and it takes some time for both regulators, legal bodies and indeed citizens to actually adjust to this new circumstance and come up with effective responses.

 

NICOLA FELL: Which is exactly what the owners of Second Life, Linden, are struggling to do.

 

In reaction to this German case, the company has said it will activate a system that verifies the age and resident country of its users. Second Life members will be required to provide evidence of their age, such as their passport or driving licence if they wish to enter areas flagged as "adult".

 

So it may be that from now on the virtual playground of the internet will be governed more and more by the laws of the real world.

 

SECOND LIFE ADVERTISEMENT (excerpt): Life beyond reality, where imagination knows no bounds and the world is anything but ordinary.

 

MARK COLVIN: That report from Nicola Fell.

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How do we bind something that is not bound by geography or any commonality at all? Do servers in America Follow American Laws and German server fall under EU/German law? What if an American is playing on a EU server? Do both countries laws apply? HWat if they conflict? Should general guidlines be set up to follow on the web?

 

I dont think laws should apply, at least not the laws of countries, as the internet is not bound by geography. I think general guidlines would work best. As for this case...sex with children can harm the child, however no children are being harmed here, unless, perhaps some layers are children then it could be a crime.

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It's a thought crime. This is an area where the church has sought to control the lives of others. They will have to show how children or others are being harmed by their actions online, which I don't think they can do.

 

But the government will make the practice illegal nevertheless because so many constituents are still beholden to the church.

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It's fucking stupid. You can go a ritually murder a child in a sacrifice to some devil in Second Life and that's ok. You can kidnap a child avatar and shoot them. That's dandy. You can have virtual sexual slavery and rape and that is dandy. Can fuck a sheep or blow a horse and that is all right. But fake sex between a child avatar and an adult avatar? No, cant have that. I know a woman in her 30s there that likes to pretend she's a young girl and have sex with "Mommy, teachers, old men" in game. Now she cant becuase someone decide it's child porn for a 30 year old to pretend they are a child.

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Vigile and Vixen nailed it.

 

Unless it can be demonstrated that people are being actually harmed, there's nothing I see to actually worry about. People are weird and do weird things, but that doesn't always mean they will get hurt or hurt others becuase of it.

 

Unless it turns into real child porn or child abuse, who cares?

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But the government will make the practice illegal nevertheless because so many constituents are still beholden to the church.

Exactly! Not only that but the politician that introduces such legislation will be seen as a hero protecting children. People have a hard time understanding that none of those laws really do anything to protect children but do everything to make a politician look better.

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Law against "Virtual Crimes" = Thought Police. It's totally based on the Bible idea where Jesus supposedly said that a person would be a fornicator just by looking with lust on a woman. And this is very similar. I don't condone child porn, but I don't think it's right to have that outlawed or a game about the same thing. I think that psychologically people that can express their fantasies without having to resort to act on them in real life have a less chance of actually committing them. So by taking away every aspect of release-valve for these people we might increase the chances of real crimes instead. That's what I think at least, but I could be wrong. Supressing emotions isn't good, it usually explode and they act on it for real. But maybe on the other hand there are some evidence (but I don't know) that watching child porn or playing games like this will cause more people to act on it in real life? That would be the only argument I think makes sense, if some evidence or statistics show that these people are more suseptible to become child rapists. But I haven't heard of any such study.

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Law against "Virtual Crimes" = Thought Police. It's totally based on the Bible idea where Jesus supposedly said that a person would be a fornicator just by looking with lust on a woman. And this is very similar.

 

So very true. What are sins anyway but thought crimes? Xians are taught that even thinking about certain things is wrong and sinful, for which they need to beg forgiveness. That just instills the notion that thought crimes are real and should be policed in some way, and punished if one is caught engaging in them.

 

Xianity is nothing more than thought control; how ironic that many Xians think that their screwy religion can somehow be behind the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, two documents meant to secure the liberty and freedom of human beings. Nothing in their religion promotes the concept of freedom in any way, especially when it is taught that just thinking about fucking someone equates to actually having done it.

 

No wonder ideas like Nazism and Communism grew in countries that were also hotbeds of Xian activity :vent:

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As far as I know, it's not illegal for someone to make a movie where murders or simulated illegal sex acts are commited (i.e. rape). If it was the entertainment industry in the US would go bankrupt. I don't see how this is any different on the internet. If people can't distinguish fantasy from reality then perhaps they should stop watching TV and disconnect their computer.

 

As with the movies (or any other form of entertainment, because that's what it is) I think sites that host material of an adult nature should be limited to adults, and kids should be kept out. That's it. Basilcally, if no real people are commiting real crimes, then nothing illegal has happened.

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