Sunday, July 17, 2005

Censorship in Second Life

Image Source: Elvert Xavier Barnes

Richard Bartle at Terra Nova asks "Is there any subject matter that can appear in a virtual world which should always be banned by real-world authorities?" [LINK]

I'm primarily interested in the question in terms of how it relates to Linden Lab and Second Life today.

My position is unpopular. I would like Linden Lab to enforce a set of community standards that is as liberal as possible. A 'hands off' approach. I would like them to censor only the bare minimum that would be required to avoid breaking the law or being exposed to serious legal challenges.

That is not their current position. I have no legal background but to my mind Linden Lab's current community standards and recent policing decisions are legally conservative. Images of swastikas are banned in-world. You can be permanently banned from the game for harassing residents or for being a serious asshat. Certain topics of conversation are off-limits - for example, speculation about a resident's real life identity and details.

The other half of my vision for SL, is for Linden Labs to reduce their police presence in SL and give you, the resident, more fine-grained options and controls about things like group-organization, what other residents can do to you, and what other residents can do on your land.

This will effectively make residents the police of their own spaces and experiences in Second Life.


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