Just Age Playing Around? How Second Life Aids and Abets Child Pornography

June 16, 2012

In 2002, Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition held that the possession, creation, or distribution of “virtual child pornography,” pornography created entirely through computer graphics, was not a punishable offense because regualtion impermissibly infringed on the First Amendment right to free speech and did not harm real children. Only a few years after that decision, however, the Court’s wisdom is being put to the test. A virtual world called Second Life, coupled with motion sensing technology, may provide a means for child pornographers to exploit real children while escaping detection. Second Life also provides a forum where users actively engage in sexual conduct with what appears to be a child. Thus, the Free Speech Coalition Court too narrowly construed “harm to a real child” and failed to render a decision that would keep pace with evolving technology.