Thursday, March 12, 2009

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Amsterdammed: Linden Lab to Segregate "Adult" Content in Second Life to Red Light Continent (Real Life ID Required)

Amsterdam

Real world Amsterdam is famed for its liberal laws regarding prostitution and pornography, but if you want to avail yourselves of such entertainment, it's actually not on every street; to get it, you need to consciously walk into a district clearly demarcated from the rest of the city by a canal and literal red lights. (SL's version of Amsterdam nicely simulates that geography, as above.)

And by the end of this Summer, if things go as announced, that's more or less the zoning regulations Second Life will have, too. This from an announcement now up on the Lindens' official blog. In summary, content designated as "Adult" will be forced off the main continents, and resettled in a Linden-managed "Adult Continent". To access that land, users will need to show proof of adulthood, either by registering a credit card number, using the Lindens' official age verification provider, Aristotle, or via other forms of ID. (Private islands and estate owners will be required to flag Adult content, and require such verification for entry.)

Yesterday I was given a chance to conduct a phone interview with Cyn Linden, company VP of customer relations, and Linden counsel Marty Roberts, so they could explain the company's reasoning for doing this now. According to Cyn, the impact on landowners on the main continents will be minimal; she estimates only 2-4 percent of the mainland contains adult content that would be affected.

The looming question, of course, is what exactly constitutes "Adult content"?

Cyn-linden That's still unclear and decidedly left undefined now; in a conversation that's sure to be contentious, the Lindens say they plan on taking Resident community feedback, to establish specifications. Broadly speaking, however the regulation will mainly apply to extremely sexual and violent content.

"We’ll meet in the forums," the official announcement reads, "and we'll reach out directly to several constituents as well as to the thought leaders who will undoubtedly emerge here. What comes from this process will not be perfect, but it will be better for our coming together to make the plan happen."

The prohibitions will include depictions of "egregious violence, simulated drug use", Roberts told me, but here again, questions remain. Do first-person shooter games built in SL apply? How about simulated drugs which don't exist in the real world?

I gave a specific example to Cyn and Roberts. One of the more popular roleplaying groups in SL is "Dark Den RP Group", which by its own description, offers "Kidnap, auction and slavery RP". Would that be designated as Adult? Surprisingly, both suggested it wouldn't, since the wording is "not about sex and violence."

How about "Capture" roleplay, generally associated with S/M sexuality? Again, they suggested, if sex wasn't explicitly mentioned, it wouldn't be defined as sexual.

Why do this now, though? According to Cyn, "Because the community has been asking us". However, she acknowledged "[I]t will help businesses and education [groups] to feel more comfortable about what they encounter" when they go in-world.  I asked her if this was related to rumors that the main Second Life grid would be merged with Teen Second Life; she denied any relation.

In any case, the clock will start ticking on this policy in early Summer, perhaps May. Adult content owners will need to start the movement process then. "We're not going to put a hard line on that," Cyn told me, "at least sixty days."

In the meantime, the community is left to wonder who will have to make the move, and how it will change the culture of Second Life. What will the metaverse be like, after certain content is sent packing to its own continent?

Top image taken at SL's Amsterdam [Direct SLurl teleport at this link]; Cyn photo from Linden Lab's site.

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Sioban

Like their run at ad farms/land cutters, this has to be aimed at improving the quality of (second) life on the mainland areas. I had a lovely parcel on the mainland for a while, but a massive sex club was located along one edge. The club had a high number of avvies or bots, which ate up capacity for the sim. The club's visitors would also stray over to our area and think they were still in a sex club. Not nice at all.

magggnnus

"In summary, content designated as "Adult" will be forced off the main continents, and resettled in a Linden-managed "Adult Continent"."
An interesting thought. As the announcement itself is a little vaguer i did ask myself if LL was planning to restrict access to all "adult" regions (as in the current "adult" or "PG" region designation) for NPIOF avatars.
which would have been crazy.

Nexus Burbclave

My impulse reaction is anger. Seething anger at a company that has clearly let go of its libertarian ideals. But I'm going to take some time to fully read and digest everything before I make any detailed comments.

Dirk Talamasca

It is a great thing and it's not like it should shock anyone that this is taking place. The tools to implement this have been in place on SL parcels for quite some time. Anyone just beginning to WONDER what will happen missed the WONDERING boat over a year ago.

Dusan Writer

Hmmm - great info Hamlet, although I feel like I'm definitely not getting it. They refer to their community standards as the place where these things have a reference point, and while the sims you mentioned might not have a problem in search, they might still need to be rated "R" if they include:

* Representations of explicit sexual conduct or genitalia, whether or not photo-realistic ("sexual conduct" will be defined inclusively, to include all erotic themes)
* Representations of intense violence depicting death, torture, dismemberment or other severe bodily harm
* Photo-realistic nudity
* Sexually themed spaces (whether indoors or outdoors)

So should we be thinking of this as "search terms" or by actual content? It's murky to me.

I see this from two sides - as an 'enterprise user' it will give assurances to clients and 'business noobs' that they won't blush by accidentally stumbling into Gor. On the other hand, I don't entirely buy that it will impact a tiny sliver of the population. We'll see - but I'm thinking of mall owners with, say, 10 tenants and one is "adult". Or needing to make choices about where you "live" because you want to walk around nude or something - whatever, I sense a dislocation or diaspora, one or the other.

Longer post here: http://tinyurl.com/cf6pf9 although I will say that based on some comments I sound more snarky than I feel.

I'm more interested in the strategy behind this, which I'm not sure I see, and the logistics of how it will be handled. Time will tell.

And I call it SLAMsterdam, btw, while risking trademark issues.

Nexus Burbclave

My initial reaction is anger. Seething anger at a company that has clearly lost site of its founders' and early adopters' libertarian ideals. But before I make any lengthy comments, I'm going to take some time to fully digest the details.

Hamlet Au

I'm not even sure Gorean content would be forbidden, Dusan, since that's not explicitly sexual. I love "SLAmsterdam", I'm sorely tempted to change the post title to that. :)

Crap Mariner

Dirk, I strongly disagree that the tools are in place.

The grid is managed and allocated with tools that assume X,Y.

But objects and activities use that pesky Z coordinate.

And that's just scratching the surface of the problem (once again, more of that pesky Z thing).

-ls/cm

Catherine Linden

I can see you all have lots of concerns, comments and questions. It'd be great if you would join the conversation in the forums where there's a group of people watching and answering. Your feedback is absolutely critical to the process.

here's a link to the blog and the different forums:
https://blogs.secondlife.com/community/community/blog/2009/03/12/upcoming-changes-for-adult-content

Valentina Kendal

Having all that pesky, potentially offensive content segregated to a ghetto will make it *so* much easier to just delete that continent when LL finds a big corporate buyer. Good thinking!

Gahum Riptide

Seething anger? I think you need to learn to pick your battles and focus it in a more positive direction, Nexus.

Ananda

Hamlet you put a bizarre spin on this story - so for instance as long as you don't mention certain words your slavery/torture/cannibalism dungeon and tentacle outlet store should be fine, but potentially my group that hangs out in a jewelry store parking lot and occasionally announces a "nakie orgy dance party" might have to be ghettoized? *boggles*

Robert Graf

Hmmmm No Gambling, No Sex, maybe no guns in the future... No Fun..... Adios, Second Life... See Ya... wouldn't want to be ya.... LOL!!

Arwyn Quandry

I'm feeling that is a huge step towards the Grid Merge, and for that reason, I'm both pleased and horrified. Pleased in that they may actually merge the grids and support teens. Horrified that they're going to step on the freedoms of those already occupying the Main Grid to do so. I fully expect an overreaction to start by Saturday at the latest.

A more complete reaction is here: http://arwynquandry.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/ll-segregate-adult-content/

Robert Graf

Money Talks... Vote with your feet... And wallet... Walk away from this lunacy... Sell, land, sell lindens, sell inventory, and move on... Just say no thanks to the Lindens... And then maybe layoffs will be in their future... No Paycheck will motivate them more than anything else... We as the customers and users pay the company bills. Starve them of money.. Its the only way they respond otherwise.. They are tonedeaf, small minded prudes... And to think they are from San Fran.. Thought that was hedonism central? LOL!!

Nexus Burbclave

Gahum, if sanitizing the place that once boasted the motto "your world, your imagination" isn't the time to pick my battle, I don't know what is. Once they've set the precedent of pushing the undesirables into ghettoes, who comes next? Furries? Goreans? Child Avis? Will the mainland be for "well behaved, normal" adult human avatars only. I think this could set a very dangerous precedent and I do think this is the time to take a stand. If not now, then when?

Iggy O

I don't know how to feel about this. The cyber-libertarian in me is not pleased, but my avatar won't be influenced by the change.

But I'm putting on my professorial mortar-board for a moment to note that whatever Linden Lab's motives and the impact on the SL economy, we are seeing a clear evolutionary step in what some call the "3D Web."

It all has happened before. Putting the adult content in a ghetto lets LL put filters in place, the same sort that work--sort of--at schools. Yet those same filters on the 2D Web block content from the Smithsonian.

Business clients of LL might even get a SL business client for their employees, with some sort of back-office feature to prevent (or even log, secretly) visits to adult-themed parcels.

Time to chime in at the LL forum.

dandellion Kimban

Crack Den is not explicit in sex & violence? Well, ok then :D

Gizzy Alter

SL can go screw themselves, I use a free account, refuse to pay real money to use SL, if their age verification means i have to go to a paid account, then i'm out of SL, never to return

Random Merryman

Cross-posted from the SL forums:

Now here's where it looks from where I am.

Linden Labs just slit their own throats today. I don't have any great interest in the adult industry, but I'm damned if I can see how it will survive when it ceases to be possible to access it with an anonymous account. And when it falls, the economic basis of Second Life is fatally weakened too.

Sure, you survived shutting down gambling. Big deal - we were in a boom then, and Second Life was trendy. Now we're in a slump, a lot of major brands look on SL as something that got tried and failed, and you're about to tell the rest of them 'we have a problem here'.

And what for?

There can only be two reasons, since LL (to its credit) isn't trying to push arguments about moral right and wrong.

Argument one is, 'but what about the CHILDREN?' and argument two is making SL more business-friendly. As in, real-world business.

Well, I run a real-world business with my partner. We have an office in SL, rented in a business park. We attend seminars and training events. We're building partnerships and holding meetings. We're exploring sponsorship of SL events. We're spending money here.

And when we're not working, we're off in our home sim, where we rent a couple of parcels from the Guvnah. We're learning to build, we spend a fortune on clothes, we socialise, we're part of a community. We love it.

And we're seriously considering leaving because of today. If the Teen Grid merger comes then we certainly will.

It's not because we're fans of the adult industry. Our only use for couples poseballs is the foxtrot, at formal dances. Roleplaying means, to us, calling people Mr and Miss, and bowing before departing. Xcite is simply yet another badly-spelled brand name.

But this piece of short-sighted, unnecessary control-freakery is a killer. It bursts the bubble - destroys the illusion that Second Life allows you to build your own second life. It says the Big Boss in the Sky doesn't trust the residents and is going to start intervening to make the world look more acceptable to - well, who?

Parents? No need - just keep the Teen Grid and make it work. If the brats aren't in the main world then where's the problem?

Businesses? Hello, RL business-owner here and seriously unimpressed. This won't make me more likely to invest, it'll make me less. I don't want to operate in a plain-vanilla theme park.

Some kind of existential fear of failing to conform to a shapeless, ill-defined but potent sense of How The World Should Be? Strangely, I don't think it is.

No, it's got to be the business thing and the parent thing. And that's stupid, stupid, stupid.

The damage this will do to the SL economy - the bit of it that LL don't like to put in their press releases, but which pays for so much of the other stuff - is going to be horrific. The drain of people to places (virtual worlds or otherwise) where they can still be anonymous will be huge.

Really, it would be kinder to just shut the whole thing down now rather than force us to sit through the thrashing of its long, extended, but inevitable death.

Ann Otoole

Second Life is not about corporate garbage. it is and always was about entertainment. Some people are quite obviously incapable of comprehending this blatant staring in the face fact of life.

The money will go where the entertainment value goes and that is going to be somewhere other than a place run by people with no entertainment business expertise.

But really... Kapor doesn't like us (and calls us names) so he is killing it. End of story. It is his toy. He owns the ball and is picking it up and taking it home to his corporate meeting room filled with college student griefers.

Why is it rich people are always stupid?

BJ Tunwarm

They're either going to have that make that continent mighty big or that definition of a "adult" mighty narrow with the way things go in SL. Hello Linden Labs, this is the internet; we are all here to have anonymous sex and to attack each other.

Raul Crimson

I agree that everybody should feel comfortable in SL and a solution is needed, anyway, i'm not sure the best is to create a ghetto, a concentration camp for sexors, as someone named it.

For me one of the problems is some people consider themselves better than others becuase they don't cyber, so the "sexors" should be "recluded" in a special area. Sorry, but nobody is better, we all make SL, including the sexors.

I am Age Verified, and this won't affect me directly, but it will affect what SL is... and it is adult content too.

Sianna Odriscoll

Wow... how disappointing is this. Apparently "Your World, Your Imagination" doesn't apply if your imagination is filthy like me. If it is, you get to be pushed out of the main community of SL and segregated off to the side like freaks.

Way to alienate your PAYING adult-content users, LL. And I thought you were so libertarian. Guess those ideals fall by the wayside in the face of conservative pressures to clean up.

Yak

A majority of the citizens in SL are non American and that should be taken in consideration, but this is a a decision by American moral standards.
Not everywhere people believe that prohibition and separation are the best ways to deal with issues.
But just like in RL, entrepreneurs have the last word. I'd rather be surrounded by happy avatars living out their fantasies in an uncencored world, then by shopping centers and corporate presence.
Greetings from Amsterdam

Dax Dover

If you like these places, this will make them easier to find. It will also make it easier to advertise them as well, hence, bring in some new business.

From what I read, you won't have to have a paid account, just some form of age-checking ID and agreement that you are of age. Isn't that what you need to log into a porn site anyway?

Just like RL, I like sex but don't like walking into it when I think I'm going shopping for clothes. I prefer to know that if I want porn, I know exactly where to go to find it, and I can choose it deliberately.

In fact, I would like to see this happen with the gaming halls. One just moved in to my neighborhood and it's already negatively affecting the experience for everyone who lives here. People are moving out, into areas where they know those places are banned.

I like it. I don't see this as a problem. Bring it on.

ArianeB

What's with all the gloom and doom? "SLAmsterdam" sounds perfect to me: No kids, no alt griefers, no puritanical hypocrites. Sign Me Up!

It's the rest of SL mainland that will become a ghetto.

Blank Xavier

[Amsterdam]
> but if you want to avail yourselves of such
> entertainment, it's actually not on every
> street; to get it, you need to consciously
> walk
> into a district clearly demarcated from the
> rest of the city by a canal and literal red
> lights

This is incorrect. I live in Amsterdam.

First, there are canals *everywhere*. Where you have streets, here there are canals. You can't NOT be demarcated by a canal. You can't get out of bed for a canal...

Having said that, the main red light district is in the center, it's not actually particularly canal bound at all. There are various little offshoots in a couple of surprising places, so you can turn a corner and be surprised by a bikini-clad girl in a window right in front of you.

The red lights are in the windows themselves - they are not used to demarcate zones.

Hamlet Au

I was in Amsterdam last December, Xavier, there's concrete pylons with little red lights lining the district. You're right that the canal system doesn't demarcate the entire area, I mis-remembered that detail.

Ciaran Laval

The solution is to provide a G-rated area for the educators and corps, then they have a choice. If I drive down a road and can turn left and right, I have a choice, if I can only turn left, I don't really have a choice.

This is a silly move, there are already designated areas in place, they require policing.

Just what part of the community has been up in arms about this? This is bunkum of the highest order and LL should come clean about their long term plans for merging the grids for the rest of this year at least.

Faerie

Doesn't this mean that griefers with 3 minute-old accounts won't be able to access the "mature" areas to grief?

That doesn't sound so bad.

Tateru Nino

I would have thought that griefers would be more interested in targeting all-ages areas.

Doreen Garrigus

Wow, people are overwrought.

Over on the forums, there are people calling the Lindens Nazis, as though zoning explicit sex and violence into a Red Light District has anything at all in common with moving Jews to concentration camps and killing them (for those of you who have forgotten, death in RL is a much bigger deal than it is in SL).

This is a necessary change. The two ratings of PG and Mature are not enough. PG is an office building or a classroom. Mature is a house with a sex bed in the bedroom. If you have a sex bed in your house, does that automatically mean you must be comfortable with outdoor capture/rape role play on the parcel next door? It is like not having a different rating for R movies and NC-17 movies.

Because of the way the camera controls work in SL, the only way to make graphic sex and violence available only to those who are looking for it is to move it away. This is the solution that we have. It is the solution the Lindens have decided upon. Our only task now is to make sure that it is done in a way that does as little damage to SL businesses as possible.

Nexus Burbclave

Wow Doreen, the first part of your post downplays the significance of virtual intolerance and segregation, and the second talks about how damaging virtual sex can be. So which is it? Is virtual behavior equivalent to real world behavior or not. If virtual sex is equivalent to real sex, then how is virtual segregation OK? I would much rather send the message that yes, consenting adults do have sex than send the message that if people are doing something you don't like, the proper response is to ship them off to the ghetto.

Noirran

I'm really having a problem with this, that I might be forcibly relocated because a supposed adult businessman or educator can't handle SL if they happen to run across a dirty picture or two avs on poseballs. Logistically I have to ask myself why take on the herculean task of sanitizing a grid that is already thriving instead of just designating your new continent "adult content free" and let the prudes go there. I have no problem marking my existing mainland adult.

Quoted "we'll reach out directly to several constituents as well as to the thought leaders who will undoubtedly emerge here." What does this mean? What the hell is a thought leader?

Arcadia Codesmith

"Thought leader" means anybody articulate and credible enough to do serious damage to LL's message (hence the Linden response in this thread). All others will be cheerfully ignored.

Doreen Garrigus

Yes, Nexus, I am downplaying the seriousness of moving explicit sex and violence out of the mainstream of Second Life. I am saying that it is not nearly as serious as the Holocaust. I doubt a lot of people would argue with that.

I do happen to believe that sex is sex, Nexus, whether it takes place in the real world or virtually. And whatever my neighbors are doing in their houses is fine with me. But if they and 30 or so of their closest friends start doing it on the lawn, or put up large flashing banners to invite all passers-by, I'm going to call the police.


Udge Watanabe

Why do people say "sex AND violence" as though they were equivalent?

Will LL also be banishing shooter games and other bloody violent sims to the red light zone? Personally these disturb me more than occasionally seeing a nipple. (Forgive me, I didn't mean to offend your eyes by using that word!)

Nexus Burbclave

I don't think I'll ever understand the sex is sex mentality. People don't say "Murder is murder" or "genocide is genocide" in a virtual context. Nothing else carries a similar "this is real" connotation. Frankly that offends my sense of logic. Can anyone give a RATIONAL explanation of why I shouldn't feel like a murderer after playing GTA or even after gunning someone down in a combat enabled sim, but somehow having virtual sex is equivalent to having sex?

Doreen Garrigus

Now that is really the question at the core of the whole thing, Nexus. I'm working on an answer for you. It may take me a day or two to write it all out for you, but I'll let you know when I have it.

Nexus Burbclave

I'll look forward to reading it Doreen, and I will do so with an open mind. It is something I've never been able to reconcile, and I've never really seen a good explanation of it.

Yak

Anyhow, the (Beta) Age Verification is flawed for non US residents. Even when chosing their own country, only US states show, and it won't take area codes in different formats.

Lord Sullivan

Yes Amsterdam is trying to clean up its image and the windows, a lot has gone and Amsterdam's Red Light area is becoming a shadow of its former self and the residents and some officials are complaining that Amsterdam will lose trade while the other puritanical residents are happy with the changes so yes i agree that a parallel could be drawn with SL. The main difference, is that you see families young and old walking down the streets of the Red light area and no one gives it a second thought, maybe thats because most of Holland is laid back and not scared of seeing a dildo in the shop window or a half naked lady in a window. Maybe some of the residents here could learn a lesson form the good people of Amsterdam about tolerance.

I am proud to live here in a country that is tolerant and especially proud to work in Amsterdam a city where just about everything can co-exist and people aren't so anally retentive as some people i see here in SL

Zonor

What the f***?? Darkden is full of sex and rape poseballs? So if its just isnt called sex its no sex?

Lets call all sexrooms 'Wild dating clubs'!!! Or "Naughty rooms" with "Fun"!!!!!


As far as the teen grid goes...

I dont want any teens on Secondlife legalised EVER. I don't pick up women in sex areas. (shops are way easier).. dont want to be f**ing a kid accidentally. Well Linden labs.. great move!! Pedophillia is a bitch so great that you are adding it (NOT).

I doubt many will verify. There are so many freebie full perm sexbed and penisses around.

Linden labs is crap

Zonor2

Amsterdam redlight zone is not clearly marked as separate from the rest of Amsterdam. When you walk around you bump into escorts just a few streets away from Central Station. NO warning, markings or literal red lights. The first red light you will see is from a window with a hooker in it. Those are the red lights Amsterdam is known for. I have lived there, Amsterdam is not marked as you describe. Its really a bad example for this issue, because Amsterdam IS liberal and I am proud of it. Don't give our city a bad name.

Arcadian Vanalten

As I noted in another thread on this topic here, I'm still wondering why, if the goal is protection of the more PG oriented, are they not instead considering offering development of a PG continent instead? Seems there's a lot more ambiguity about what's considered Adult and what's Mature, but everyone knows pretty much what's expected of PG. Separate that out instead. It would be a much more logical approach. Otherwise, we're looking at a potential grid-wide spiral of McCarthyism rooted in honest differences of opinion on the distinction between the terms "Adult" and "Mature".

B.B.

Well, here we are a couple of months down the road and things are HORRIFIC. As predicted, the Lindens cannot make up their mind what exactly "adult" is and they're jerking us along for the ride.

This whole thing is bass-ackwards. Instead of treated all their customer like children who must prove adulthood, these nimrods SHOULD be treating us like the adults we are, free to go where we please and do as we wish, with those not wishing to participate in certain things having the ability to opt out.

Best way to do this is to take that brand new shiny continent they've built and make it PG.

It would be the perfect little Disneyland for the narrow minded prigs and prudes, schools and corporate image makers. That way the mainland as it exists today could be left strictly alone.

Will they do it this simple and obvious way? NO! Should the CEO of Linden Lab be fired, taking his little butt kissers with him? A resounding YES!

Erinyse Planer

LL for a long time claimed that this was pushed for by the community and by businesses. The number of businesses unhappy with this change that left (which was the vast majority of the conglomerates that LL stupidly pointed to) the protests from the community, and the admissions from many of the employees of that company itself showed that LL flat out lied.
ALMOST NO ONE pushed for this policy, the VAST majority of the community is in opposition. The only reason LL is forcing this is to try and force people into spending more and to collect personal data they can sell. Hell, their own marketing department admitted it.

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