What will the real world tolerate?

The response to Daniel Linden’s blog post last week has been forceful and fairly widespread, demarcating along ‘freedom of expression’ and legal compliance lines.

The United Protest forum contains the full transcript of a chat with Daniel Linden’s colleague Robin Linden, in response to the concerns raised after Daniel Linden’s post. Robin goes to some lengths to emphasise that there’s been no change in approach in regards to freedoms within SL.

For me, the challenges arond the whole issue are encapsulated in two statements attributed to Robin Linden:

“I have to tell you though, that we can’t address every single corner case or possibility”


“In part because the real world hasn’t decided which of these things they’ll tolerate”

There are essentially two camps on the issue: those who believe that SL is a totally different medium and therefore conducive to re-evaluating what constitutes acceptable sexual expression and those essentially applying real world mores and taboos to the virtual world experience. On top of that are the legal requirements of Linden Lab. It’s a messy, complicated mix and one that everyone will continue to grapple with. And like it or not, it’s the real world that will be the arbiter in the end, hence Robin Linden’s comment:

“so we’re working with various governments to understand their individual concerns “.

It’s not hard to imagine there’s going to be a growing amount of governmental consultation going on in order to head off an all-out witch hunt once a morally dubious in-world issue arises, with widepsread community demand for action.

Linden Lab draws deeper moral line in the sand

The official Linden blog was the forum today for Linden Lab to encourage SL residents to report a range of issues:

– acts involving or appearing to involve children or minors
– real-life images, avatar portrayals, and other depictions of sexual violence including rape
– real-life images, avatar portrayals, and other depictions of extreme or graphic violence


It’s hard to imagine a significant backlash against such restrictions although defining terms such as ‘extreme’ or ‘graphic’ is always fraught with inconsistencies. With tens of thousands of people logged in at any one time, following up complaints is also likely to be difficult. The hope is that the ‘haven of creativity and social vision’ desired doesn’t just drive the worst aspects of SL underground either within SL or elsewhere.

Update: veteran SL resident Prokofy Neva has written an extensive article on pedophilia and its SL implications.

Child Pornography – Linden Lab’s firm response

The Official Linden Blog carried one of its more serious topics today – allegations of child pornography. The blog post details the chain of events. Linden Labs’ reaction certainly demonstrates their belief in stamping out anything related to child exploitation and they deserve commendation for that.

Based on the blog post, I took the opportunity to use the SL search functionality and typed in ‘child’ – the result was everything from anti-child pornography groups through to childrens clothing and body-shape stores. The second location we teleported to contained the following images:


Another location appeared more innocuous but still contained body shapes like this:


We’re not asserting that the locations we saw are involved in child pornography. However, these images are obviously of under-18’s. I saw another picture of a child-like body shape for sale in nothing but panties which contained a sales description of ‘pert preteen body’.

That on its own may not constitute pornography but it’s difficult to rationalise the use of child body shapes beyond some very unhealthy intentions. There are people in SL who want to be carefree and live like a child, but arguably this isn’t the majority of the market.

We’ve contacted Linden Labs via their PR company for comment and we’ll report any response.

Update (November 2007): Reuters is reporting that the UK have undercover police investigating pedophilia in virtual worlds including Second Life. Second Life Insider is also running a story on Wonderland sim and Sky News’ reporting on it.

Update 2: Croga is an excellent site that provides confidential information to those concerned about their viewing of child pornography online.

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