Simulated child pornography is child pornography depicting what appear to be minors but which is produced without the direct involvement of children.
Types of simulated child pornography include: modified photographs of real children, non-minor teenagers made to look younger (age regression), fully computer-generated imagery, and adults made to look like children. Drawings or animations that depict sexual acts involving children but are not intended to look like photographs may also be considered by some to be simulated child pornography.
In the UK, the Coroners and Justice Act of April 2009 (c. 2) created a new offence in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland of possession of a prohibited image of a child. This act makes cartoon/virtual pornography depicting minors illegal in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Since Scotland has its own legal system, the Coroners and Justice Act does not apply. This act did not replace the 1978 act, extended in 1994, since that covered "pseudo-photographs"—images that appear to be photographs. In 2008 it was further extended to cover tracings and other works derived from photographs or pseudo-photographs. A prohibited cartoon/virtual image is one which involves a minor in situations which are pornographic and "grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character".
Prior to this, although not explicitly in the statutes, the law was interpreted to apply to cartoon/virtual images, though only where the images are realistic and indistinguishable from photographs. The new law, however, covered images whether or not they are realistic.
In the United States, the PROTECT Act of 2003 made significant changes to the law regarding virtual child pornography. Any realistic appearing computer generated depiction that is indistinguishable from a depiction of an actual minor in sexual situations or engaging in sexual acts is illegal under 18 U.S.C. § 2252A. Drawings, cartoons, sculptures, and paintings of minors in sexual situations that do not pass the Miller test were made illegal under 18 U.S.C. § 1466A. However, this provision of the statute was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in the 2002 decision Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition.
In the Australian state of Victoria, it is illegal to publish imagery that "describes or depicts a person who is, or appears to be, a minor engaging in sexual activity or depicted in an indecent sexual manner or context". The allowance of virtual child pornography in the U.S. has had international consequences. For example, French virtual child pornography producers have moved their files to servers in the United States because of its wider free speech protection" (Eko).
Main article: Legal status of cartoon pornography depicting minors
The hentai subgenres known as lolicon and shotacon have been the subject of much controversy regarding impact on child sexual abuse. The reported link between the use of child pornography and child abuse has been used to justify the prohibition of sexual depictions of children, whether their production involves child abuse or not.
Pornographic parody images of popular cartoon characters, known as Rule 34, have also been challenged around the world. Images depicting The Simpsons characters have been of particular concern in Australia and in the United States.
The subgenres have also been made illegal in some countries, like the United Kingdom and South Korea.
In 2007, the virtual world online computer game Second Life banned what its operator describes as "sexual 'ageplay', i.e., depictions of or engagement in sexualized conduct with avatars that resemble children". The ban prohibits the use of childlike avatars in any sexual contexts or areas, and prohibits the placement of sexualized graphics or other objects in any "children's areas" such as virtual children's playgrounds within the game environment. Those Second Life residents who are caught ageplaying are given a warning stating that their actions are considered "broadly offensive" within the Second Life community and that "the depiction of sexual activity involving minors may violate real-world laws in some areas." (Duranske 2008).
Second Life is not the only community facing virtual child pornography allegations. In 2007, World of Warcraft banned the player organization "Abhorrent Taboo", because the organization allowed player characters to engage sexually with role-playing children and real children. (Duranske 2007).