Net filtering and virtual worlds: reactions

After last night’s story on the Australian Government’s internet content filtering legislation and its potential impact on virtual worlds, the response has been astounding. Today has seen the largest ever traffic on The Metaverse Journal. Like any issue, there are a few camps of thought:

1. Those who have significant concerns that environments like Second Life will end up being banned.

2. Those who have significant concerns, but cannot believe the Australian government would be so misguided as to oversee such a ban.

3. Those who believe the whole idea is hype and/or scaremongering and that the Federal Government will not take such a scattergun approach.

4. Those who support the proposed legislation.

australia-sim

A resident of Australia sim in Second Life unhappy with proposed net filtering plan

I tend to fall in the second camp, because there are innumerable examples of governments making policy that has unintended consequences for individuals not intended to be targeted by a new law. In fact, most legislation does that, it’s just that this proposition particularly stands out for its gaps in logic and potential to harm some really good work going on within Australia.

There’s certainly a chance that the final legislation, if passed at all, will have taken into account the intricacies of virtual worlds. I’m not holding my breath on that though, unless there’s some concerted efforts by Australians on the issue. Telstra and the ABC have plenty to lose and it’s both those organisations that could make a difference in sanity checking the final legislation. The hundreds of thousands of virtual environment consumers in Australia also have a large voice, if there’s a timely response in the event a ban does seem embedded in the legislation.

There’s plenty of time for these issues to be teased out – determining the Minister’s willingness to do so is the biggest unknown. We’ve contacted Senator Conroy’s office but unsurprisingly there’s been no response. What are your thought? Is it all a storm in a teacup, a call to action or a big yawn?

Comments

  1. As a definite “camp 2″ I am largely concerned at the moment about the affect the uncertainly is having.

    1. A large community of vulnerable people are in a spin over the lack of clear direction or statement from the minister on this issue. Isolated people with disabilities, anxiety disorders, and phobias are not sleeping while they contemplate life without their only real social outlet. In SL everyone is equal, and people in hospital beds make up a large number of users.

    2. Educationally – the use of Second life to support education, which is an important industry for australia, is threatened. Lack of confidence in virtual worlds due to slow intenet has already hampered our entry into this important technology which will soon be seen to be the next information revolution, this uncertainty is hurting Australia further. Further to this, Australia's size creates great need for distance education, when the NBN is completed remote Australia will have access to this revolutionary educational tool. Lasting uncertainty will not help us develop the services Australia will need.

    3. Economically – SL is a vehicle for economic activity that is set to explode exponentially in the next couple of years. As with education, the slow internet and ambivalent policies of the government have done nothing to assist companies looking to move forward into the digital economy, while countries around the world are embracing and awarding innovative use of Second life for business and edication, our government is considering a ban? Its simply ludicrous.

    My point is, while it is in my opinion very unlikely the ban will happen, the minister is, quite unequivocably, hurting vulnerable communities, stalling education prospects and stunting our digital economy while he faffs around trying to decide what to do.

  2. for thjose outside australia currently – what law is being look at being introduced, how does it affect online users in virtual worlds ?

  3. Hi Andrew,

    It’s a very valid question – the laws fall around filtering of internet content overall. Electronic Frontiers Australia have a great overview of it here:

    http://www.efa.org.au/mandatory-internet-filtering-fact-sheets/

  4. Daz Blitz says:

    My SL fiance is Australian, does this mean we can't get married now??

  5. Juko Tempel says:

    Juanita Deharo, who runs the Australian Artists group in SL, has posted two blog posts on the implications of the proposed filtering for art in SL, one as a letter to Senator Conroy with some compelling evidence and questions :-)

    http://juanitadeharo.blogspot.com/

  6. Oh I doubt they would ban second life would they? I mean, then they might go on to ban YouTube in our schools – YouTube that has every lecture given this year by Stanford, MIT, Harvard and other universities on a special channel. And this sort of Government might send a laptop home with every school child with a note to be signed by parents that children won't access ANY social spaces online. Because you, know, refusing knowledge on sex education worked so well in the 70s that repeating that strategy regarding social virtual worlds will work too! Such a myopic government wouldn't limit blocks to the school children but would also ban these sites in their offices, as public servants are trusted even less than the kids in class. This sort of government would be totally happy with blocking social spaces for all Australians.

    Oh wait, our Government has done all these things! #sarcasm :P

    Still, it's not actually happening yet. The discussion is between classification (every game must be classified) and filtering (blocking at ISP or domain level). These games/social spaces will be blocked until classified. Then MA15+ will be filtered at ISP level (you have to ask ISP to give you access). C and G games will be accessible to all.

    Issues: getting Second Life to apply and pay for 3 classification licences (Teen, normal and Zaendra). This will unblock the servers at a domain level. Then asking ISPs to turn off the filter for your home, work and other services. Fun fun fun.

    Good news: in the past, the department has said it will only classify closed boxed games as open unending games are “inherently unclassifiable”.

  7. Lowell Cremorne says:

    It's all good news isn't it ;)

    Having R18+ and X 18+ games ratings in Australia would be a small step in the right direction, assuming the legislation eventually recognises that games / virtual worlds meeting those criteria are ok to escape filtering. My fear is that may be a couple of hurdles too many for our current elected representatives.

  8. yeah I guess that second life will only be blocked for a year or two until it get's sorted – cos there's no way that Linden Labs could claim their service is for adults only and self classify without it going thru a bureaucratic process first. :P
    God forbid that adults would have to read the blurb and decide for themselves if the game/world/service is suitable. We really need a government body that doesn't play games to do that for us. hahaha

  9. Oh I doubt they would ban second life would they? I mean, then they might go on to ban YouTube in our schools – YouTube that has every lecture given this year by Stanford, MIT, Harvard and other universities on a special channel. And this sort of Government might send a laptop home with every school child with a note to be signed by parents that children won't access ANY social spaces online. Because you, know, refusing knowledge on sex education worked so well in the 70s that repeating that strategy regarding social virtual worlds will work too! Such a myopic government wouldn't limit blocks to the school children but would also ban these sites in their offices, as public servants are trusted even less than the kids in class. This sort of government would be totally happy with blocking social spaces for all Australians.

    Oh wait, our Government has done all these things! #sarcasm :P

    Still, it's not actually happening yet. The discussion is between classification (every game must be classified) and filtering (blocking at ISP or domain level). These games/social spaces will be blocked until classified. Then MA15+ will be filtered at ISP level (you have to ask ISP to give you access). C and G games will be accessible to all.

    Issues: getting Second Life to apply and pay for 3 classification licences (Teen, normal and Zaendra). This will unblock the servers at a domain level. Then asking ISPs to turn off the filter for your home, work and other services. Fun fun fun.

    Good news: in the past, the department has said it will only classify closed boxed games as open unending games are “inherently unclassifiable”.

  10. Lowell Cremorne says:

    It's all good news isn't it ;)

    Having R18+ and X 18+ games ratings in Australia would be a small step in the right direction, assuming the legislation eventually recognises that games / virtual worlds meeting those criteria are ok to escape filtering. My fear is that may be a couple of hurdles too many for our current elected representatives.

  11. yeah I guess that second life will only be blocked for a year or two until it get's sorted – cos there's no way that Linden Labs could claim their service is for adults only and self classify without it going thru a bureaucratic process first. :P
    God forbid that adults would have to read the blurb and decide for themselves if the game/world/service is suitable. We really need a government body that doesn't play games to do that for us. hahaha

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