Second Life's Iranian Residents Gone From SL During Protest
When the widespread protest over Iran's heavily-disputed presidential election erupted last weekend, I went searching Second Life for Residents who lived in that country. According to Linden demographic stats published last year (as above), there were over a hundred of them then, logging into Second Life on a regular basis, and likely more this year. There are numerous Second Life groups devoted to Iran and Persia (as below), the two largest totaling over 500 members, and I joined both, sending out several futile "Hello?" messages in the group IM channel, getting mostly silence in reply. (One Iranian member finally responded, but he was living abroad.)
During the previous few days, Linden spokesman Peter Linden confirmed to me last night, "[W]e've not seen any log-ins from Iran." I had been hoping that the Iranian government, far more focused on blocking Twitter and other Internet social networks that have become crucial communication channels for the uprising, may have forgotten to block virtual worlds like Second Life, which connect to the Internet via different protocols than web applications. However, the utter lack of Iranian log-ins in the last few days suggests that Second Life is being blocked, or that Internet connectivity has become so degraded in that country, it's shut down by default.
In any case, I'll keep looking for Persians to return to Second Life, and ask my readers to do the same. For the moment, however, it is probably better that Iranians' Internet activity center on Twitter and other such tools. As I told Roland LeGrand, who's been wondering the same thing, virtual worlds like Second Life are more powerful social change agents on an interpersonal level, for the small percent of Internet users able to meaningfully use them. A great tool for a tech-savvy Iranian woman who wants to safely explore her sexuality or spirituality in ways that would be extremely dangerous to do in her country now, for example -- but when she wants to rally a thousand students on Tehran's Valiasr Street in the next 30 minutes, not so much.