Tuesday, May 15, 2007


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Brenda Archer

I wanted age verification, but not in the form it is being brought to us. I am waiting for the FAQ, which I hope will address the issues.

Three things stand out already, however.

1) Many Europeans believe that verifying with Integrity will be illegal in their countries.

2) Aristotle's political connections to the American hard Right have made many people afraid to verify.

3) In addition to age verification, it will now be possible to gender verify and have it show on your Profile (I have gone into this in detail at http://forums.secondlife.com/showthread.php?t=183757). I strongly oppose this, even if it is optional. Unlike age verification, there is no legal or moral reason for it, but much potential for harm.

I will briefly quote my own thread on the nature of the problem:

Gender verification in Profiles would be very destructive to the social fabric of Second Life. It has been pointed out that it would be bad for TG/TS people, but it would also be bad for women in general, who will be griefed if they refuse it and stalked if they accept it.

I'm worried about three things: the first two are the newbie experience, and everyday socializing. Gender verification could ruin both of those for verified women. It does so by making it easy for sexual harassment to find its preferred targets. The third thing I worry about is the risk of stalking when RL gender is known. It shows those who would stalk who their preferred targets are, and makes it that much easier to guess who is controlling an avatar.

In short, not being provably male or female gets me a lot of protection from jerks and worse.

I'm assuming a flag for gender would sort for M, F and not specified, which is anyone who doesn't check the box. The largest number of people who will not check the box will probably be born women, not TS (who do not generally identify themselves as neither, but rather as the gender to which they are transitioning). So discriminating against those who will not check the box works out to being a ban on women who won't declare themselves. Women who do not wish to verify gender for reasons of safety or privacy will be constantly hounded to justify their decision, or rebuked for being a male pretending to be female, or accused of having slack morals (I have already seen all three in the blogosphere). There is no such thing as voluntarily opting out of gender hierarchy.

Requiring residents to show whether they have declared a gender would be a disaster for women individually and would ruin the social atmosphere in SL. Turning the place into a meat market dating club would just drive many women away. This has happened in other online social venues already and their experience should serve as a cautionary tale. The only reason the party is still on in Second Life is that the neanderthals aren't sure who is female. The level of crudeness aimed at verifiable women in other online environments guarantees they will be a small minority in many. Voice also brings some of these dangers, but a Profile can be checked by anyone, while one can choose to whom to speak.

Those who need to be really certain of the gender of the person they are dating already have plenty of ways to do that, none of which need to be in the code. There is very little legitimate business reason to require someone to verify gender specifically, with the exception of marketing, but I am not paying Premium to have sexist marketing forced on me without my opt-in.

Lessig is right to say that code is the law of a place. We don't need a law that can be used to make caste out of gender.

end quoted material

Thanks for hearing me out. The relevant Office Hours quotes and additional information are in the thread.

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