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Friday, June 01, 2007

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anon

If there's no new policy in that blog posting, why do so many think it's new? Many, even most, of the people in the SL community think this post is a direct contradiction to previous policies.

Alexander Lapointe

"There is no new policy in yesterday's blog posting-- our Community Standards have always prohibited broadly offensive behavior."

That is an outright lie.

The Community Standards state, "Content, communication, or behavior which involves intense language or expletives, nudity or sexual content, the depiction of sex or violence, or anything else broadly offensive must be contained within private land in areas rated Mature (M)."

There is nothing about it being prohibited, just simply make sure you are in a "private enclosure" in a Mature parcel

Ordinal Malaprop

I'm sorry, but "There is no new policy in yesterday's blog posting" is a load of toilet.

Whilst it might be claimed that such stuff as was mentioned was previously banned because it was "broadly offensive", that term has always been so vague as to be meaningless without examples. Clearly there were many things that were banned yesterday which were previously tolerated or accepted - rape fantasy is now banned but has previously been the subject of write-ups in blogs (e.g. Hard Alley) without it being removed.

The idea that such things had not previously been noticed is completely ridiculous, and I am offended that LL consider that I might be stupid enough to believe that. Even if this is just play-acting for the media to convince them that they are concerned about virtual pervs, honest.

Laetizia Coronet

This is the same old hands-off approach, depending on a (flooded?) abuse report system which doesn't allow for much clarity or the necessary subtlety.

If such offensive behaviour as shown in the German TV show (RL pictures of child porn being passed around) must be fought, then there needs to be a more hands-on approach to the matter.

Terms like 'broadly offensive' are just not going to cut it. "[I]t would be foolish to attempt to catalog everything that might qualify as broadly offensive" No Daniel... it would be the right thing to do. Or does the traffic code in your country cite "excessive speed" as an offense without specification?

On my blog I try to formulate a more hands-on approach. It scares even myself but I guess it's needed.

Barney Boomslang

Sure, all the residents who think that the post included new and changed policy, because, well, it all read changed or new to them, are just morons, I guess. And then add a bit of handwaving and shooing and all is good. Uhm. Not.

Ah well, a community manager that neither communicates with the community (only broadcasts his will, which isn't really communicating), doesn't hold inworld office hours and seems to not understand the community he is trying to manage at all. Why am I not the least astonished?

Miriel Enfield

If "the community" wants this so badly, then how come the reaction I'm seeing is almost entirely negative?

And I agree with the people who say that yes, this is a change in policy. And a bad one, at that.

Crissa

...Actually, many states within the US do cite 'excessive speed' as a traffic infraction, without giving examples.

However, Federal law (which supercedes state law on interstate commerce) does not include virtual or fictional depictions of rape, pedophilia, or violence via Court ruling. In other words, there's pretty much nothing you can do in SL that violates the law, because it should be all consentual, private, and fictional; not to mention not photo-realistic.

But Second Life doesn't have a court, we have Daniel Linden instead.

Salamander Wretch

Considering Prokofy Neva's recollection of a scene inside SL last summer in which she claims to have viewed real life child pornography, and in which she strongly implies in comments on the Second Life Herald that

It is perhaps not too wise to consider Prokofy Neva's recollection at all...

Hamlet Au

Csven, since those allegations aren't independently verifiable and not strictly relevant to this post in any case, I'd ask that conversation take place elsewhere, please.

Nicholaz Beresford


Well, I'd say Daniels condescending tone says everything. It's that distanced I'll-say-nothing tone you get from cornered politicians and spokesmen in fortune 500 companies when they're in a crisis and have to tell something by telling nothing.

What this post and even more his repsonse says is: I think you're all a bit dull and therefore I can get away with this bullshit.

csven

I'm not so sure the allegations aren't independently verifiable. Perhaps they are. And if they do turn out to be true, then I'd argue that it is very relevant. How can a company make judgments about whether or not something *virtual* is "broadly offensive" if they have in the past turned a blind eye to *real* content of this type?

If I recall correctly, Linden Lab has had previous instances where company policy was unclear to employees. Perhaps it is in this area as well. Considering the ramifications to residents, this sort of disconnect would seem especially alarming, don't you agree?

For what it's worth, I'll not comment again, but I certainly hope your close ties to Linden Lab don't affect your journalistic integrity. People can go on about avatar pretend all they want, but when the real material gets the brush off, we collectively have a much bigger issue imo.

Hamlet Au

Csven, repeating single source hearsay of serious allegations are exactly what responsible journalists don't publicize. In fact, that in mind, I'm just deleting that post; feel free to publish it on your own blog.

aquietnonpoliticalSLresident

Hello.

I'm trying to like Daniel Huebner, but after watching him speaking rather condescendingly of Second Life residents at Stanford Humanities Labs (http://slcreativity.org/blog/?p=32) and now with all of this, I'll be honest and say I'm finding that to be somewhat difficult.

I know he's probably just doing his job and at the end of the day, everybody needs to put food on the table, but I think this could have been handled better and perhaps even re-thought altogether.

I know he has said in that Humanities Lab video that he and the company he works for both purposefully keep rules vague so not seeing a clarification isn't too surprising to me. But to even say that "broadly offensive" things have never been tolerated? Like the others in these comments have said, that's not exactly accurate. Maybe, just maybe certain things have been "tolerated" as "offensive" and then only just recently, those things were declared "broadly offensive", which took the offensiveness up a notch and thus a statement like that could be technically accurate. Ok...

..BUT...just like at least one person mentioned above, I have copies of the Community Standards that go back well over a year and I can get copies that go back much further. In every copy I've looked at this is the language regarding "broadly offensive" content, communication, or behavior:

"...the depiction of sex or strong violence, or anything else BROADLY OFFENSIVE must be contained within private land in areas rated Mature (M)..." (emphasis, mine)

Unless "private land in areas rated Mature" can be equated to "never tolerated", "prohibited", "subject to removal", or "you will face account sanctions", he is simply wrong about "broadly offensive" content, communication, or behavior never having been tolerated. It's specifically declared to be tolerated in-world but on the condition that it must remain in private Mature areas, not banned entirely or subject to removal as his blog post indicates.

I'd like to think the Communications Director checks, double checks, and reads the company's own documents, so maybe it was just an oversight that he uses the same language to describe something that is specifically mentioned elsewhere. But I'm still confused as to why the choice of language was such that is so readily identifiable in their own Community Standards and with a different description of it than what exists in previous, plain language. No reasonable interpretation of the Community Standards, in my opinion, can be read to mean "broadly offensive things, regardless of where they placed in-world, will subject your account to sanction and termination."

Does anybody have a different view of that?

Laetizia Coronet

This is what the ToS says:
"In addition to abiding at all times by the Community Standards, you agree that you shall not: [...] (iv) take any action or upload, post, e-mail or otherwise transmit Content as determined by Linden Lab at its sole discretion that is harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, causes tort, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable;..."
Daniel would have done better to refer to this instead of to the community standards.

Trinity

This is a MAJOR issue and you manage to cover it with "Nothing to see here, move along."

I cant say I expected any different from LL's pocket reporter.

aquietnonpoliticalSLresident

Yeah, Laetizia Coronet. It doesn't make any sense to me to do so either. None at all... But thinking about it, I suppose two good reasons not to point to the TOS here:

1. That would mean that *Linden Labs* determines it objectionable, whereas claiming "broadly offensive" would mean that the "community" determined it. That might contradict the entire stated goals of the company, though, even in that video linked above, that “We were never going to be able to define what was acceptable in the virtual world." (quoting) and the company wasn't going to try and didn't want to. But that would have had to mean that the language of the Community Standards actually coincided with what he blogged about regarding "broadly offensive" things in the first place.

2. On the same day of the announcement, a federal district court judge ruled that Linden Lab's TOS are unenforceable in Court, written unfairly in way that violates California law. Although the Community Standards are themselves authorized by the TOS, in people's minds I would imagine there's a distinction between the two, in that even if the entire TOS was rewritten to be fair (and now looks like it's going to have to be at some point), one could still expect there to be a "Community Standards" of some sort to be authorized by it when that change occurs.

It seems to me he's stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one because past documents and statements can't easily just be flushed down a memory hole. I don't think a good solution to the problem, however, was to do what I and others apparently also think was done, which was to pretend this policy existed (or "overlook it" to some, or to others "lie about it"). Aside from re-thinking it altogether, the company may have done better in my humble opinion to just bite the bullet, restate their company intentions about regulating content, take a big PR hit and ride it out, then move on from there.

..Because I honestly can't say that any of the distrust and cynicism this has instilled in people can go unwarranted. Wouldn't communities rather have managers who are hYeah, Laetizia Coronet. It doesn't make any sense to me to do so either. None at all... But thinking about it, I suppose two good reasons not to point to the TOS here:

1. That would mean that *Linden Labs* determines it objectionable, whereas claiming "broadly offensive" would mean that the "community" determined it. That might contradict the entire stated goals of the company, though, even in that video linked above, that “We were never going to be able to define what was acceptable in the virtual world." (quoting) and the company wasn't going to try and didn't want to. But that would have had to mean that the language of the Community Standards actually coincided with what he blogged about regarding "broadly offensive" things in the first place.

2. On the same day of the announcement, a federal district court judge ruled that Linden Lab's TOS are unenforceable in Court, written unfairly in way that violates California law. Although the Community Standards are themselves authorized by the TOS, in people's minds I would imagine there's a distinction between the two, in that even if the entire TOS was rewritten to be fair (and now looks like it's going to have to be at some point), one could still expect there to be a "Community Standards" of some sort to be authorized by it when that change occurs.

It seems to me he's stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one because past documents and statements can't easily just be flushed down a memory hole. I don't think a good solution to the problem, however, was to do what I and others apparently also think was done, which was to pretend this policy existed (or "overlook it" to some, or to others "lie about it"). Aside from re-thinking it altogether, the company may have done better in my humble opinion to just bite the bullet, restate their company intentions about regulating content, take a big PR hit and ride it out, then move on from there.

..Because I honestly can't say that any of the distrust and cynicism this has instilled in people which I've seen can go unwarranted here. I think that it's fair for communities to want their managers to be aware of their own documented rules and honest about about the rules' implementations.

aquietnonpoliticalSLresident

(sorry about whatever mangled my last comment)

Ian Betteridge

The first rule of blogging is that you only blog when you have something to say. Considering that, Hamlet, do you really believe that Daniel bothered to create a post announcing nothing new? And, if what he posted was a restatement of existing policy, why wasn't it couched as such? Why didn't he simply say that Linden Lab would be actively policing its existing rules more thoroughly in future? I think you need to go back to him and ask him a few tough questions - friend or not.

What's more, his claim that "the Community actively defines what is and is not acceptable in Second Life" is either stupid or disingenuous. *Which* community is he referring to? There is no single Second Life community - there are a multiplicity of communities, most of which actually don't cross over that often unless they go looking for people they're likely to be offended by. That, in fact, is part of the point of Second Life: the opportunity to liberate yourself from social mores and norms in your day-to-day community, to play with your own vision of yourself.

What's frightening people is the notion that Linden Lab is serious about letting "abuse reports and forum discussion" define for *every* Second Life member what is and is not acceptable behaviour. As LL should know from their own experiences with the media, just behind the wisdom of crowds comes the torches of the witch hunt.

Is Daniel seriously suggesting that someone who runs a private, consensual rape fantasy sim which is open only to a restricted membership should be banned on the basis of "blog posts and abuse reports" from people who never actually see the activity involved? That would be a very different Second Life from the one which we've all presumed to exist - and, I suspect, it would turn Second Life into a poor clone of Sony's Home product.

If enough people write abuse reports because they're offended about someone leading a slave on a leash in an adult area, will LL take action? Because moral majority types *will* do things like that - and unless Linden Lab is prepared to acknowledge that fact and state how they would deal with that situation, they will not gain the trust of the community again.

I note that Linden Lab is looking for a new vice president of customer relations. Perhaps their first job ought to be to actually start relating to their customers.

Ian Betteridge

Oh, and - how does this relate to estate owners now handling abuse reports? Is it just time for communities to head off the mainland for good?

Seraphine

I love SL. I love that the world is almost totally created by its residents. That is why I am here, instead of playing World of Warcraft or LOTR or any of the other games. SL is not a generic game. I fear as a natural evolution, it will gradually become more generic (especially when the company is sold to Sony or Disney or whomever). It will eventually lose it's specialness. When I stop loving it, I will go somewhere else.

Hamlet Au

> Hamlet, do you really believe that
> Daniel bothered to create a post
> announcing nothing new?

That's Daniel's claim, not mine. I print his replies to my questions, and it's up to you to decide.

Hamlet Au

I personally think this is probably an important part of the puzzle behind Daniel's statement:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/01/AR2007060102671_2.html?hpid=topnews&sub=AR

[V]irtual renderings of child abuse are not a crime in the United States but are considered illegal pornography in some European countries, including Germany...

Philip Rosedale, the founder and chief executive of Linden Labs, said in an interview that Second Life activities should be governed by real-life laws for the time being... In coming months, his company plans to disperse tens of thousands of computer servers from California and Texas to countries around the world in order to improve the site's performance. Also, he said, this will make activities on those servers subject to laws of the host countries.

Biscuit Carroll

There is an petition entitled "full reign of self-expression for consenting adults" at http://www.gopetition.com/sign.php?petid=12515.

People sign the petition in avatar names and the names are not publicly viewable.

Ian Betteridge

Hamlet says: "That's Daniel's claim, not mine. I print his replies to my questions, and it's up to you to decide."

And as a journalist, it's your job to press him a little bit harder than that, especially where you have access to someone that others don't have access to. Where an answer raises more questions than it answers, a follow up is required. Come on Hamlet, you're a professional journalist (as am I) - you know this stuff.

Talera Halley

the way the post is worded leaves others open to be greifed and attacked, EG: lesbains, gays, furries, BDSM community, what of people who role play being a mother in SL ( NO sexual act commited with the child, AV, which is made from static prims ) will they be turned on and banned for hsving thier child as well ? all his post does is open a can of worms as most of us know that child porn is wrong, grapich violance is wrong, unconceted rape is wrongm, but what about people who want to role play rape fantasies ? will they be condemed as well ? refusing to say what " broadly offesnsive " is just opening the grid to a new form of greifing on innocent players

Talera Halley

yes go after those who are loading kiddie porn go after those who are doing violance and uploading graphic content, yes stop UNCONCENTED rape, but leave us to play our fantaies as concenting adults.... stop the act of sexual stuff with minors...... do not condem us who wish to role play being a caring mother and parent......

Markus Breuer (Pham Neutra)

One part of Nazi philosophy was a term called "Gesundes Volksempfinden" (roughly translateable to "what all well meaning people think is right"). Gesundes Volksempfinden was used to justify the Holocaust for example and is used in many east european states of today to justify many forms of gay descrimination.

That said ... I get a very bad feeling when a government official (Linden) uses the voice of the majority (or a vocal minority?) to justify the suppression of an individuals or minority's rights.

There is a reason why law isn't made by plebiscites in all modern democracies. That reason is: the mob isn't very good in making sensible laws - or enforcing the LAW. But even if we would accept a plebiscitary element in law making, assuming that "Abuse Reports, blog commentary, forum discussion" resembles a representative sampling of "the community's"opinion seems to be more than a little bit naive to me.

I am worried, that defending SL against mindless accusations from yellow press media has a higher priority than good governance of a community that is more than a million strong these days.

jumpman lane

The interview with D. Linden was indeed helpful, as it clarified something for me. NOT what Linden Labs means by broadly offensive. It's doubtful that even every Avatar with the last name Linden even knows themselves. Rather, the interview clarified how LL plans to ENFORCE reported violations. With every crackpot-censor in SL mobilizing, forming groups, and plotting to be the-informer-around-every-corner it eases my mind as a budding SL pornographer that the thought police will be defanged by bureaucracy LOL...

Laetizia Coronet

The replies of Tarera serve as proof of how vague wording can be totally misconstrued. Nothing has ever been said about motherhood in SL, tiny avis are not pinpointed, and yet she fears for the 'life' of her 'child'.
Daniel, I couldn't have written a better case for clarity than Tarera just did.

Kirk Nabob

SL is not a generic game. I fear as a natural evolution, it will gradually become more generic (especially when the company is sold to Sony or Disney or whomever). (Seraphine)

And that Seraphine is the bigger picture. All this isn't about what does or doesn't count as overly explicit on Second Life.

It's about that as the world attracts more and more noise, activities that would be considered fringe pursuits in RL become more unwelcome for world owners LL.

Ultimately Linden Labs is a business. Perhaps a fairly benevolent one as far as corporations go, but its prime motive is still to grow its properties and make money.

Here in the UK, whenever a journalist wants to have a pop at Second Life, talking about sex is the usual way to go. For example, Tim Guest's new book "Second Lives" was reviewed in the Sunday Times today. (See http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/non-fiction/article1859344.ece)

The fairly cynical review zeroed in on the escort service and virtual mafia aspects.

At the same time, the IT industry online journal, The Register, always calls Second Life "Sadville", even when running a fairly straight item about this or that organisation setting up in SL.

Linden Labs must be delighted at the rush of brands looking to set up a presence in SL. But a world where the most popular destinations are sex clubs, puts brands off. Actually I'm surprised so many have been willing to overlook this area until now.

LL's long term strategy will almost certainly be to give SL a more vanilla flavour, possibly even leading to a sale of the business to the likes of Google or Disney down the line. And a combination of voice and age verification will no doubt help.

So yes, the blog post didn't signal any new policy. It did however give an indication of how LL sees the future and the way ahead.

JB Quinn

I believe we are seeing the end of SL as we know it, and the beginning of the new sanitized, corporate friendly, Second Life. If it wont play in Peoria, you wont see it in SL anymore. The irony that this all began with an over sensationalized German tabloid television news story is not lost on me. (This is the same Germany that gives us such pornography as John Thompson, 666, GGG, and scat porn, all things that make SL look rather tame in comparison.) Much like Germany in the 1920's, the Linden Labs government will turn to "brown shirts" to enforce the superior morality of the virtual world.

All Linden Labs stands for now, is corporate friendly virtual advertising. With hopes, of course, of being bought out by one of those corporations. To accomplish the sterilization of the "unclean" virtual world the LL goverment needs their fanatics, their very own "brown shirts." These brown shirts will spy on everyone, will uphold the new morality and superiority. With time, Linden Labs will complete their transformation into a modern nazi party. They will clean the world of the virtual "scum" so that all the pure second lifers will not be burdened with impurity. In the end, if this continues much like Germany at the end of World War II, the Second Life world will be nothing but ruble and destruction. We will all move on to something better, I guess Linden Labs can hope that they sell off to some Corporation before that inevitable fate is reached.

Hypatia Callisto

I wish they'd dispense with the vagaries, they'd build a lot more goodwill if they were just a bit more honest about why the policy change.

The TOS clearly states that such content should be contained in a mature area - not its not allowed at all. That is a policy change.

Now, I've been on sites where this policy change has exactly happened before - actually, on a 3d erotica site. But the owners were bluntly honest as to why the Dolcett type art involving snuff and hardcore BDSM was removed from the site, as well as other art involving watersports. It was the payment processor handling the store end of the site. Unfortunately sites are beholden to them. That's something I can understand - I've seen it before and I do have sympathy. But I'm losing my sympathy if people aren't straight with me.

LL - did your payment processor complain, and now you're asking the community to rat on people to make sure that you guys stay clean? That's pretty low... you'd have gotten a lot more goodwill like the site I've also participated in, if you were just honest about why.

Nicholaz Beresford

)) That's something I can understand - I've seen it before and I do have sympathy. But I'm losing my sympathy if people aren't straight with me. ((

That's what I and many others have been saying many times. If they just said something like "Philip's got cold feet and this stuff can't run as it used to any longer" or "we've got a big buyer and need to make the bride more attractive" or "sh*t, that german law thing was too close, non of us want's to go to jail over that crap" there would be far less uproar because everyone would understand to some level.

But this airy "Let's keep SL safe, together" just made me want to throw up. It's like an insurance company trying to sell you higher rates as being a good thing for you.

Hamlet Au

OK, we're at two violations of Godwin's Law, so I'm waving my yellow card. It's perfectly possible to sharply criticize Linden Lab without comparisons to the Third Reich.

Cyn Vandeverre

I think that if they really want to do what "the community" thinks is right, they first have to take a poll* of the community so they have some idea what it really is. Otherwise they're basing decisions on supposition, and hearsay, and "what my close circle of friends think."

* A real, scientific poll. One vote per actual user; these things can be set up professionally; not your average fluffy internet poll.

Katie

There is no change in policy, we have always been at war with Oceania.

Hypatia Callisto

Cyn Vandeverre > There is no change in policy, we have always been at war with Oceania.

*dies laughing at the Orwellian quote*

Hypatia Callisto

ah sorry, that was Katie, my bad

Brenda Archer

It's not a good thing to have people in this kind of a panic. I have never seen anything like it, in my two years in Second Life.

When I see pillars of the BDSM community, who uphold the value of consent like the creed of a religion, in a panic that they're in line for persecution, something has gone frighteningly wrong. Expanding the issue at hand beyond "ageplay" to adults portraying adults has created a mess that incriminates almost all of us in Second Life, including those of us who make a moral distinction about minors and oppose ageplay.

I think it's perfectly technically feasible to create a G-rated subcontinent for educators and corporates that is by invitation only, separate from the mostly Mature mainland, by using the mechanisms of group-only land. Or, it could be done by the mechanisms of private access islands.

This entire hurricane was completely unnecessary.

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