Second Life has a
Activists recently built a virtual
world information site on a private island called Better World, to raise
awareness of the ongoing ethnic cleansing in
Shortly after it was unveiled, however, the place was hit by griefers. The first marauder found an exploit in the Camp’s building method, and used that to raze the place to the ground, strewing tents and images of refugees everywhere. According to Zeke Poutine, officer in the "Not on our watch" Darfur activist group, he shouted racial slurs while he trashed it. The Camp was rebuilt, but copycat attacks by others followed.
And that’s why
I met Zeke and some members of the
“Zeke Poutine was assaulted by someone," Matador tells me. "I took her out of there to file an abuse report.”
“I was working on a poster to link to the DC
rally blog for tomorrow,” she explains. She'd just found out that the group’s two websites, Campdarfur.org and stopgenocidenow.org, had been taken down by a hacker attack. Their technician had set up a temporary site,
and Zeke was just creating a new poster that would take
After some small talk about wanting a job, Zeke says, the visitor drew a “push gun” and used it to send her flying across the island.
“He said he didn't know the weapon would work,” Zeke adds.
KallfuNahuel grunts, unconvinced.
“Sounds like he was playing innocent so not to get reported,” Jeremy Keiko (who wears his Green Lantern costume over a lion avatar) suggests.
Zeke Poutine isn’t sure the attacks on their websites and their Second Life site are related, or if they’re politically motivated. “Who knows? Some people just do stuff because they can,” she muses. “'Cause they have issues? ‘Cause they don't like Africans?”
"It doesn't sound like they just did it for fun," Matador observes. “It's a hate crime.”
When the attacks first began, the Green Lantern Core helped them secure the Camp. Their lead officer Jeff Beckenbauer built a security script that scans the identity of avatars who visit, and showed the Better World owners how to read it. Jeremy patrols the island in the morning, and Matador at other times, as do other Core members.
In the beginning, they tell me, the
GLC was founded by Cid Jacobs as a way to show off devices and builds inspired
by the Green Lantern comic. From there
it evolved into a roleplaying group, with members pretending to “patrol”
sectors of Second Life. This began as
fun, but lately it’s started to involve monitoring actual violations of
Community Standards and Terms of Service-- the live and let live rules of conduct that Linden Lab
has its subscribers agree to, when they get an account.
“It's unfortunately turned into a lot of watching for CS/TOS violations,” KallfuNahuel Matador acknowledges. “The roleplay aspect kinda fell to the wayside. Certainly it started as a group of fans of a comic book, but it's grown and growing into something more.”
In this, one sees trend for the future
of Second Life-- as the world grows ever larger, the sheer population size will
make it impossible for
“The Green Lanterns were more helpful than Linden Lab, to be honest,” Zeke Poutine tells me. “Can I say that?”
“If that's what you think, sure.”
“Well, that's what I think,” she says. “[A]fter the 3rd [attack], we didn't even tell them.”
I suggest that Linden Lab might say that with a population over 200,000, they can only watch one island in hundreds for so long.
“Ah, the old 200,000 line,” KallfuNahuel Matador says, unconvinced.
And while it’s not entirely strange for superheroes to fight genocide (during World War II, Superman tangled with Hitler, and more recently, Frank Miller offered to send Batman after bin Laden) it seems odd-- and maybe a bit trivializing-- to have that struggle interactively play out in an online world.
“How does it feel to be devoting so much effort protecting a virtual information site to a genocide when the actual one is still going on?” I ask KallfuNahuel Matador.
He’s silent for a long time.
“Well,” Matador finally begins, “I can
only do so much in real life, and I suppose only so much in SL as well. But I
think every little bit counts.” He says
that the Core often spots suspicious characters lurking in
“And when we're here,” Matador adds, “we don’t just fly around but talk to visitors… I can be a part of raising awareness.”
I briefly attended the
In a better world, there'd be no need for protest. In a better world, after short deliberation, international leaders would send their elite soldiers with a mandate and an arsenal, and for the first time in their bloody careers, the butchers of women and children would be the ones who felt afraid, knowing that the arbiters of rough justice had gotten their guns and were coming for them. In a better world, all this would happen so quickly, there wouldn't even be time to create the simulation of a refugee camp in Second Life. Let alone find it necessary to protect it.
But that is the case on the island of Better World, and for that, the Green Lantern Core is ready. Cid Jacobs created a scripted lantern for their efforts.
“The Guardians Power the Lanterns, the Lanterns power the rings, and the rings give the Green Lantern Members their power,” Jacobs tells me, smiling, as he swings the lamp in his hand. “It's a long flowing chain of energy.”
It doesn’t just emanate an emerald
light, but at his command, plays an audio sample from the old television
show-- Green Lantern reciting the Core’s oath to a crescendo of
trumpets. The SL group flies up to the
In brightest day
In blackest night
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power
Green Lantern's Light!
Update, 5/14: The conversation over this story continues here.