Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virtual prostitution or virtual prank?

This seems to be an urban legend or prank, but I found some of the potential legal implications quite interesting. Supposedly, a female gamer from New York placed an advert on Craigslist stating that she would have sex in exchange for 5000 gold in Wolrd of Warcraft so that she could buy an Epic Flying Mount in game. The listing was allegedly removed from Craigslist, but someone managed to make a screen-shot.

As you can imagine, the item generated considerable amounts of discussion in its own thread in the WOW forums. The story culminated, according to WOW Insiders, with the player posting again on Craigslist to advertise the fulfilment of the transaction, and share an image of the epic mount (the beastie, not the act).

Besides the very strong possibility that this is some kind of prank, and leaving aside some of the unsavoury and misogynistic comments in some of the forums, I've wondered about the potential legal issues here. Firstly, there is the self-regulatory element of Craigslist removing posts that advertise or make offers of selling sex. Would this act be considered prostitution? Does it make a difference that the payment is in a currency that can only be accessed in-game, to make virtual purchases? Does it matter that the exchange is in virtual goods?

Similarly, I have been wondering at the amount of social regulation taking place here. Most of the forum participants have expressed their disapproval or disgust as this type of practice. Why is this? Is it just that it seems a little sad? Isn't this just another commercial transaction involving virtual goods? Should we care what two consenting adults get to in their own time?

I will leave the most lurid details out of the discussion, but perhaps we will have to start thinking of virtual pimping, virtual brothels and such soon. Reading Wired's Sex Drive column is always quite an education on what some people do with their online existence.

I guess I'm just too boring, all I do with my online time is blog.


Anonymous said...

It might be interested to note that Dutch Parliament wants to ban virtual child pornography on Second Live. Not sure how they would enforce such a rule from the Netherlands though.

Have also heard that the Public Prosecution Departmetn is going to prosecute people that publish virtual child pornography on SL. Not sure whether they would succees as child pornography is defined in the Dutch Criminal Act as a depiction of a sexual act in which a person participates that has not yet reached age of 18.

Bob R.

Andres Guadamuz said...

Hi Bob,

That's really interesting, is there such a thing as child pornography on Second Life?

Interesting that the Dutch Parliament would feel like they need to regulate such practices.