Technology & Science

Child porn, virtual sex ring found in Second Life: report alleges

German authorities are probing the online virtual world Second Life after the release of a television news report that alleges some members are involved in a simulated child sex ring that trades real child pornography.

German authorities are probing the online virtual world Second Life after the release of a television news report that alleges some members are involved in a simulated child sex ring that trades real child pornography.

Police are seeking to identify members of the Second Life group who traded and paid for sex with child-styled avatars or digital representations of people, BBC and Deutsche Welle news servicessaid afterthe allegation was reported Tuesday by the SWR public broadcaster's Report Mainz television news magazine.

Reporter Nick Schader, a Second Life member, was asked to pay for admission to the gatherings in the 3-D virtual world where simulated and real child pornography was being shown, according to BBC's account of the report. The group's members also allegedly offered to connect Schader with traders of actual child pornography.

"We'll try to find out the name of the person responsible," senior prosecutor Peter Vogt of the Division for the Prevention of Child Pornography was quoted by Deutsche Welle as telling Report Mainz. "This sort of criminal activity is punishable by a term of imprisonment of between three months and five years."

Police receive company findings

CBC News Online was not immediately able to reach Second Life spokespeople for comment, but BBC on Wednesday reported that the company was to conduct its own investigation and turn over the findings to German police. The comments were attributed in the television report to Robin Harper, vice-president of Second Life's parent company, Linden Research Inc. of San Francisco, BBC said.

Second Life is experiencing rapid growth in Europe, with Germany leading the way, according to a report released May 4 by internet traffic rankings firm comScore Inc.

The analysis found that in March 2007, some 1.3 million people overage 15 use Second Life's software, and 61 per cent of them were in Europe. About 209,000 members of the virtual world connected from Germany, compared to 207,000 in the United States.

Sometwo million computer users participated in the research panel.

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