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Exploring the cultural understandings of the issue from the users’ perspective is particularly important given the reliance of such online environments on these users to identify and report such behaviour which contravenes the rules of the environment.
Their definitions and understanding of what sexual ageplay is and entails, views on the ‘wrongness’ of the behaviour, as well as on the efficacy of reporting procedures are fundamental to efforts to curb such online behaviours.
Thus M sims have widened in definition from being for RL adult residents only to RL adult residents and non-child-like avatars.
The governance of these Community Standards is complex as SL operates through allowing residents to buy and create their own sims on the SL grid and so use the virtual space as they wish.
Because of the reliance on criminalising behaviours that have only indirect harm (with little current evidence base), other jurisdictions, including the US, have refrained from criminalising fantasy images to date because of the lack of are popular in mainstream culture, and possession of images of child abuse was criminalised only as recently as 2014 (although creation and distribution had been illegal since 1999), with possession of fantasy images and pseudo-photographs exempted from this prohibition, despite global pressure (Takeuchi ).
This global uncertainty about the legal position of sexual ageplay has resulted in virtual gameworlds being required to prohibit the behaviour to ensure their users’ compliance with relevant jurisdictional laws, as well as to maintain good social order and online behaviour.
A resident who does not own or operate a sim can, thus, access others as they wish, unless they are for private groups, so long as they abide by the individual sims’ ground rules.Other residents can also report any concerning behaviour to the sim owner/manager or to Linden Lab.Thus, policing of these Community Standards is dependent primarily on SL residents reporting behaviour they regard as against the standards or the sim rules (Stoup ) considered the normative nature of SL and compared it with other RL communities that are primarily self-governed through a democratically emergent set of social norms.Thus, given that SL residents are primarily responsible for the recognition of sexual ageplay and for the reporting of it as contrary to the Community Standards, it is imperative to understand how SL residents in general understand and regard sexual ageplay and sexual ageplay in the particular context of SL.Confusion, misunderstanding, non-interventionist perspectives, ‘bystander’ attitudes, belief in the harmlessness of sexual ageplay or ineffectiveness of the reporting process and sanctions would potentially all undermine the likelihood of SL residents reporting any concerns or instances they may be aware of.
This is particularly in light of gathering international concern round the anonymity and freedom of the online world which facilitates social networking and the sharing of real and digitally-created child sexual abuse images, as well as the potential harms of viewing fantasy images of such abuse related to child sexualisation as well as the normalisation of a sexual interest in children, which is argued to increase the likelihood of real world offending ().