Thursday, August 26, 2010

the harbingers of war with their nature revealed

So, let's talk a bit about the future of Second Life. The future of Second Life with kids.

Philip Linden addressed the whole teens-and-SL thing on the official blog. The high points for me were:
  • 16 to 17 year olds are, as promised, going to enter Second Life (in a supposedly "protected" way);
  • 13 to 15 year olds might be coming in later, if the first stage protections work for older teens;
  • and, of course, Philip Rosedale outright lied, when he said the Teen Grid wasn't going to close.
Me being me, it's the lying that gets me, but all of it's bad, in my opinion. I'm not going to trust anyone I meet now who's new. I'm not going to be social at all unless I can personally guarantee there is zero chance of ever even flirting with any avatar I meet, just in case, let alone anything else. And frankly, I was already a hermit for the most part, socializing in spates of group chat; this will not help.

Now, to the comments. Michael Fairplay starts things off:
This turns logic on its head, Linden Lab got all upset and nervous over age play but we are going to unleash 16 year olds onto the grid. Well at least I can say the bad decisions are consistent. It's one mistake after another.
What are the guidelines? Supposedly they're going to be restricted to PG builds, but I know there used to be a lot of "free sex" sims operating on the PG mainland. Zindra was supposed to take care of that, and when last checked, the known ones seemed to have been removed, but does that really mean they're gone?

Ceera Murakami remarked:
Are you going to create a G-rated continent for the Teens to access, and that they can't leave until they turn 18? If you don't, even if you restrict them to PG sims, those sims are side by side with Mature sims containing XXX content.

Or are you going to further downgrade "Mature" mainland and prohibit all use of Adult-rated content anywhere outside Zindra or isolated Adult-rated private sims? That should go over really well with your over-18 residents, who signed up for a virtual world that allowed an Adult experience,and not for Disneyland-safe G-rated fun.
A damned good question, and a good point beyond that.

Jeroen Waisman says:
There is a reason why 18+ isn't allowed to access the TG, without doing a expensive background check, being a licenced educator and being restricted to an educational sim. Restrictions should work both ways. Exposing teens to adults raises concerns, but so does exposing adults to teens.
Absolutely. Why aren't the Lindens thinking of those concerns, also?

Gavin Hird has heavy questions:
Could the Lab please clarify exactly by which mechanism the age group 16-18 will be restricted to General (PG) regions.

Can you also clarify what signup controls you will put in place to confirm the age of this group? (we know the current credit card account verification method for access to adult regions makes it possible for 13+ to enter such regions.)

Can you also clarify how you will proceed to purge General regions of the large amount of adult and mature content currently in resident parcels?

Add to that, how will you guarantee that the residents transferred from the teen grid indeed is 16+ old?
Are we going to get answers to any of these questions any time soon, also?

Shockwave Yareach ponders:
I am not the least bit worried about the teens coming in. I am, however, scared sh*tless about the law enforcement folks coming in with them - people who do not know (nor care) how SL is run or that Timmy broke a rule by camming into my home.

I make a very good living. Some of that money still comes into SL, though much less after the voidsim debacle. But if you think I'm going to risk prison and a child pedo rap to continue playing in SL, you truly are living in a dreamworld. Better start telling us what protections and the rules are because many are already preparing to abandon ship.
He's not wrong. What are the rules for accusations of child endangerment? What are the protections?

Again, a huge sign that the Lindens--as per usual--have failed to think this concept through.

1angelcares Writer said:
I shop and party and work and hang out on PG sims. To argue that we adults will never have to interact with minors because they will be on the PG sims and we adults will be on the Mature or Adult sims is ridiculous. I want to be able to speak with whomever I want to on the grid, anywhere on the grid, without fear of legal reprisal. Nowadays, you don't even have to proposition a minor to get in trouble. Just be nice to them! Just give them a compliment! OMG! He must be "grooming" the poor, poor innocent teenager for "future" molestation!
This is a realistic assessment of the situation. Or, put another way, it's not the teens we fear so much as their parents; not their families so much as their media outlets sensing salacious news about to be made. How many reporters are going to log into SL as a potential 16-year-old? How many parent groups are going to flip out? How long before Second Life is once again Public Enemy Number One in Germany?

Ceera Murakami chimed in again:
I'll grant that most 16 and 17 year olds are probably mature enough emotionally to handle what they might see in a Mature sim. But the LAW still says it's illegal to provide them access to Adult materials. Linden lab's 'opinion' that 16 year olds are mature enough does not make it legal.

What I see happening is that once this new policy goes into effect, any new person you meet, before you consider interacting with them in an Adult manner, you better webcam them or get a photocopy of their legal ID. Otherwise, you risk arrest for contributing to the delenquency of a minor. That will absolutely kill most Adult interaction in Second Life.

Prior to this, yes, the new person you meet might actually be under 18. But if he or she was, then they LIED to get here, and the legal onus is on them for 'sneaking into the Adult movie theater'. When mommy complains that their 14 year old girl is table dancing for you, you can say "No one here is supposed to be under 18, so she lied to get work here as a stripper."

After this, there's no protections at all. Even if you're standing in the Adult-rated Zindra continent, any 16 or 17 year old who has their own credit card, or who borrows their parent's card info to be able to buy L$, will have full and unrestricted access to the hardesd hardcore areas in SL. And any of them can PM an adult and get involved in Adult conversations, with no way for the adult to know that he's chatting up a kid.
Yeah, I can't really add anything to that, I believe the same thing.

Ciaran Laval asks a pointed question:
Why don't you turn the teen grid into the PG continent we were asking you to create at the time of the adult content fiasco? That would be perfect for this little experiment, teens could roam there, adults would come as they could setup stores and rentals, the teens could even setup business partnerships with adults to distribute their wares.
Mm-hmm. Why can't this happen? I know why it won't--Lindens don't listen, don't take advice from residents on the ground, and don't care about doing the right thing--but why can't it happen? And the advantages of an all-PG continent far outweigh the potential disadvantages: making a purely protected content that one physically cannot in any way port off until one is 18, or older, and such information is kept tidily on file at the Labs for verification--all it really requires in terms of change is blocking porting (which could then be locked to that PG continent), and access to resident's RL info--which all residents have on file anyway!

Glimmering Sands asks:
Is this new policy, unwittingly or not, a public admission of SL that their attempts have failed and they might as well codify the practice?
And isn't that a question to keep you up nights?

Terrence Linden came in at this point to address one of Miss Murakami's points:
I understand your concern. To clarify, any user who is under 18 in our system has a maximum maturity rating of General. Those with a maxium maturity rating of General are not able to adult verify and/or access adult regions, even with a credit card on file or if they gone through the age verification system.
Until they come up with a brand new alt, that is...

Skatoulaki Nakamori comments:
When I was forced to relocate my place to the porn Zindra, I remember specifically reading - both in comments in the SL forums as well as in published interviews with Philip Linden - that despite speculation and rumor to the contrary, there was no intention to move teens onto the main grid.
Yeah. Bugs the hell out of me, too.

Emma Starsider shares Desmond Shang's worry on contracting with teens:
I think it's a very bad idea to form a business relationship with a teen. You might get into legal trouble really fast. Talk to your lawyer or accountant before you start this.
And both she and Des are serious; if you run any major business in SL, at the very least pay for an hour's consult with a corporate lawyer, nailing down the teen provisions, all none of them, for cooperative ventures with adults.

1angelcares Writer posts her plan of attack:
Not that it's a failsafe, but to protect myself from as much liability as I can given that Linden Lab is throwing us under the legal bus, I am considering the following:

1) I will uncheck the PG box in search. Only Mature or Adult search results will show. Any new places I visit, new stores I shop at, or new groups I join will have to be Mature or Adult. As for existing places I frequent and groups I am affiliated with, I will carefully evaluate their value to me
vis-a-vis the probability/liability of minors being present.

2) Any new avatars whose rezday is after August 14th, 2010 will be ignored/muted unless they are able to prove they are age-verified. I will be polite, but firm. No verification, no interaction.
I have to say I'm right there with her. I'm checking profiles like crazy now, and it was a habit before. And I'm nervy and paranoid--is that new av a teen at the BDSM discussion? Is that newbie asking for free latex underage? I'm afraid to hang out in PG areas; I'm afraid to hang out in all other areas just in case someone's slipped through. And it doesn't even stop there, because as several gentles pointed out, teens have been with us all along.

But 90% of those teens? Are smart enough to keep their heads down, and play along; just the 10% of extremely thick got scooped up for wanting to be a dancer "because high school sucks" or wanted to show off their new Halo armor freebie set at the strip club.

Now? It's a whole new world of doubt and fear. And it only gets worse from here.

As the Betterverse blog puts it, "January 1, 2011 is going to be an interesting day in Second Life."


Lalo Telling said...

Re-quoting 1angelcares: As for existing places I frequent and groups I am affiliated with, I will carefully evaluate their value to me vis-a-vis the probability/liability of minors being present.

In my case, that includes SL itself. I predict that, soon, the only time I will be logging in to that virtual world will be to see an art exhibit, or a particularly fascinating sim, that someone else has blogged about.

And, if I may concatenate this with your previous post: Miss Emilly, you should try to rise above your reaction to the z in InWorldz. It's where all the cool non-kids are going. ;)

Rhianon Jameson said...

Didn't you mean the "cool non-kidz," Mr. Telling? :)

I'll preface this with the usual "not a lawyer" disclaimer, but I didn't think "I didn't know she was 14" was a defense. Therefore, even under the current system, adults are not immune from arrest just because the minor lied. In fact, if that were true, Terrence Linden's response would take care of the problem: as long as you meet someone on a non-G sim, he or she is either an adult or has lied about being an adult. I agree that this is still a problem, but it's a problem that already exists in SL.

Emilly Orr said...

Mr. Telling,

The z bothers me. The z bothers me deeply. Let alone if I were to do the same thing on InWorldz I do now, I'd have to do it with textures I alone create, or ask everyone who's ever made a texture for me if I can use them on InWorldz, and that's far too much of a headache.

But you're not the only one feeling that way. One of my loves, in fact, has, since this announcement, fallen 'out of love' with SL to the point that it feels like dragging him in, resigned and bitter, when I do ask him to participate in an SL-based activity. And a large part of this--even though the bulk of his rp activities are in Adult-rated areas--is the concept that he, at any time, could be chatting back and forth with a sixteen-year-old.

Emilly Orr said...

Miss Jameson,

The rules are curiously elastic in some senses. "I didn't know she was 14" is still not a defense, but with the presumption that everyone one meets supposing to reach at least an 18 standard, very little on SL was actionable. In fact, the whole ageplay hysteria centered on adults who played children, not children behind the childrens' faces.

That being said, though, the game changes, and I believe drastically, if it will soon be a known fact that the grid is partially underage. I'm thinking of Gaia here--a place designed expressly for kids, which still has a surprising--and disturbing--amount of BDSM roleplay. And I've been known to not only leave off reading a particular subboard when one of these topics pops up--as they do frequently--but going up the chain to that entire forum, cutting off that category entirely for a while. To the point that now, I'm not logging in to Gaia at all; the place deeply unnerves me.

Serenity said...

Overall I can't express how disgusted I am at (the US at least) the legal system. Seriously adults should have protection from these children just having free range to just sign up for these things, screw up, and get others in trouble. XD Pfft even if they do get caught by the parents, they can't spank them, just sue the other party because their kid screwed up. Ah what a messed up world we have.

Emilly Orr said...

And partially, it's the culture we've asked for, is the problem.

Every time some mother with a mission campaigns for a governmentally-enforced law to protect children, that's one step backwards for parental responsibility. Our government says you can't have it both ways--either we are responsible for raising our children, or the government is--and overwhelmingly, families seem to be saying You take care of them.

In fact, in the state I live in, that's actually become law--if you give birth to, or father, a child, and you just can't hack it as a parent, you can turn that child in to the nearest hospital or police station and give up responsibility for raising that child in the first six months of that child's life. I think of it as the parental version of the 'Get Out of Jail' free card.

I'm not going to say that's a good law, but even online, if we are in a space where we have adult expectations, things can go haywire. Remember, the two original ageplaying avatars were both well over their thirties. There were no actual children involved, ever, yet Germany threw so many cogs, all at once, that that moment of insanity still shadows the SL childrens' community to this day.

What I'm wondering is how bad it's going to get with actual kids in the mix. (And I really don't care about the whole kid/young adult split: I've met a LOT of under-eighteens who are bright and smart and together; I've met relatively few I'd trust hanging out with latex shopping, say. And even if I trusted that particular under-eighteen--and it's a BIG IF--I still wouldn't trust the parents of that kid to understand what was going on.)

Me, though I know there's going to be serious problems with this new policy, I still put it on the parents--trust the internet to watch your kids for you, that's what you get.