Dear citizen, please report to termination room 101

Posted: 7th October 2010 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
Infect Teh Interwebs


You can argue they are right,
but it shouldn’t be this black and white.

In second life your account can be deleted at any time. When signing the TOS, you consent to this. If for some reason Linden Lab gets it in their head, (say because you have leftist sympathies, or you write a certain politically sensitive blog, or you have some kind of unorthodox sexual lifestyle, or maybe you vote for a certain political party, or you lobby against a certain cosmetic product that also sponsors Linden Lab) that you are a danger to Second Life, they can also ban you. They can do this without explanation or advance notice.

11.4 We may suspend or terminate your Account(s) to protect the best interests of Second Life and the Second Life community or if we believe you pose an unacceptable risk to the Second Life community.
We may suspend or terminate your Account if we determine in our discretion that such action is necessary or advisable to comply with legal requirements or protect the rights or interests of Linden Lab, the Second Life community or any third party. We may suspend or terminate your Account(s) if we learn, or in good faith believe, that you are a Registered Sex Offender, that accessing Second Life may violate a condition of parole or probation, or that you for any other reason may pose what we deem to be an unacceptable risk to the Second Life community.

If, strictly hypothetically speaking, Linden Lab would be talking with a buyout partner, and that buyout partner had some kind of reason to want me banned, I’d get banned. Maybe I had a record of in the past pirating Microsoft products a lot. If Linden Lab would feel a sudden urge to ban me, they’d have to offer me no explanation and if I protested publicly they could invoke the above clause, offering no other comment, leaving the strong suggestion open publicly I would be suspected of being “a registered sex offender”.

I have invested at this time an amount of value into Second Life products exceeding 10.000 Dollars. My avatar name is in itself a brand name. I have a wikipedia page with the same. I have used in effect the medium of Second Life as a therapeutic vessel for self-actualization and self-realization. Yet I find myself in a virtual reality where my host reserves the right to murder the manifestation of my existence, and in effect cancel the opportunity to engage with dozens of loved ones and friends in a meaningful manner, and take away hard won properties on what might be a whim. Or griefing by third parties. Or unknown external manipulation or political pressure I have absolutely no control over.

Linden Lab would argue – you are a host in our world and you must follow the rules of our world. There is an argument to this, and there is some validity in this idea – but the fact of the matter is that out of hundreds of thousands of second life users there is a percentage (like me) that is so thoroughly fucked up, that Second Life has in itself become medicinal, therapeutic and a lifesaver. I am not exaggerating in this. To put it bluntly, maybe I wouldn’t (probably) slit my wrists if I was banned, but I’d almost certainly end up in clinical psychiatric care, probably one or months of hospitalization if it were to happen. Sure, you can label me as ‘fucked up’, mock me and dismiss me, but I don’t regard the situation much different as a severe heart patient finding a use for an otherwise mundane product or service and then becoming effectively dependent on this product, to the point that cancellation of the product would cause the heart patient to be literally in danger of her or his life.

I am not the only one. I asked around, and some people made an estimate that if “second life folded’, or they avatar would be ‘permabanned’, they would probably be at risk of suicide. So in effect Linden Lab has created a product of which can be said two things.

1 – this product is an addictive piece of software and it endangers people’s lives.
2 – this product is a cognitive tool that helps people with psychiatric problems to developing coping tools, but carries the price of these people developing a severe dependency on it.

I now potentially can see thousands of bloggers respond with contempt and scorn and disdain. Probably american bloggers, from cultures more rich in ‘social Darwinist’ popular culture. To the people who’d mock me for making that category statements, I say in advance – they can go fuck themselves.

This situation won’t do. I cannot and will not accept that I am at the mercy of the capricious nature of Linden Lab. Maybe at one time I somewhat trusted Linden Lab, but in the last year I have seen such a degree of incompetence, such a fickle management style, such rude and confused service, such bewildering strategical choices that I now find myself in fear. I am an outspoken person from a culture far more free and outspoken that US culture. Where I live I am far more free to self-express or live than anywhere in the US. I was raised on a diet of provo. Hence I find myself in fear. I fear that Linden Lab, or externalities beyond my control, may take away my avatar. I see friends avatars (and tens of thousands of US dollars of their virtual ‘belongings) being taken away from them, on reasons I cannot ascertain or understand, and all that adds to my fear.

I am aware that these statements may trigger a detached, cynical, aloof attitude in those of Linden Lab that might read it. They might retort by saying “stick to the rules and you’ll be fine“, but that’s not enough for me. I know griefing tools that would allow me to implicate another avatar, with very little chance of capture, and have that avatar banned. In a matter of days. If someone would want me banned and had the ingenuity, I’d be gone in a week even if I was snow-white with innocence. I’d have no means of appeal. Worse, I’d probably be in an emotional state where I would be in effect unable to effectively mount an appeal, or protest my banishment from SL.

I am simply too vulnerable, even if I followed the rules.

Considering all this I have considered literally backing up my inventory, i.e. all of my inventory. There are ways to do that (and unlock all the textures, features,m scripts, sculptures, animations, etc in my inventory as transferrable, copy, fully mod) even if they are not TOS compliant, but if I’d used them, I’d probably end up banned shortly after. So taking that step would carry its own severe escalatory risk.

This situation is unacceptable to me.

As a consequence I’d want Linden Lab to implement a substantially means of protecting a category of avatar accounts such as mine. I can imagine a far more robust avatar rating, where an avatar might find itself confined to a a handful of sims, in case it were banned. I’d say that in some cases Linden Lab should permanently refrain from permanently banning certain avatars, and state so as part of their product guarantee. I’d say so that Linden Lab might consider implementing an ‘appeals’ procedure, maybe even a court of inquiry, or ‘judgement by peers’, or even a special ‘protected avatar account’.

I can envision an ‘avatar status’ where Linden Lab can attribute a rating to avatars, that more or less makes the avatar more credible in the eyes of others, and as well acts as some sort of buffer against capricious bans. Maybe some kind of non-monetary voting system (wuftie) would help in this. We had something like that in the old days. I can envision a user like Gwynneth get a Triple-AAA rating in second life, which would serve as some sort of public acknowledgement of her good character in the eyes of Linden Lab. Maybe Linden Lab might do well to make its considerations more transparent on a new page ‘avatar account status’ on your profile, with an option to make it public for all to see.

Whatever the case, Linden Lab must understand that what they offer isn’t just some hamburger you as a client can choose to get or not get. This has become a cognitive tool that is not merely enriching lives, it is also literally saving and empowering lives. Sure it is addicting to some. But ask yourself – what would those ‘some’ have without it? I mean – the world out there isn’t such a paradise. Second Life acts as the new dream state, and it allows us to deal with the shit of reality. This stuff is becoming very very important to me, and many other people out there.

Linden Lab New Tos
Jira
Article by Giulio

  1. bodzette Coignet says:

    I agree with the others that say you should do a backup on OpenSim.

    Also: there is disruptive breakthrough technology on the way within months.

    Rezzable has created a fully functional Unity3D web browser client that can connect to a suitably modified opensim server and display opensim content. That along with the fact that opensim supports mesh (and SL soon will) means there is now an upgrade path to much better 3D graphics while still preserving original content from SL whereby if SL goes down or you get banned from SL Khannea and others can just move almost seamlessly out into the metaverse.

  2. Then my advice is to start developing a presence on OpenSim. Hypergrid Business has a lot of practical advice on existing grids and how to host new ones.

    As for all new initiatives, this project can only take off if someone takes the lead, organizes a team, and start working hard.

  3. SL is a proprietary platform which belongs to Linden Lab. They can legally do whatever they wish, including change the TOS, terminate accounts, shut down the service or selling to whoever wants to pay enough. I think they have made a lot of very stupid business decisions, but these where their decisions to make. There is no point in complaining.

    They also cannot be held liable for people’s addictions. They have provided a platform, and users have created a social scene on their platform which is very addictive for some users.

    We have always known that investing too much money, time or emotional resources on a proprietary service which belongs to others who can change it or shut it off anytime is a risk.

    Serendipity is right: “All it takes is enough people that want a virtual world that is different in respect to the rights of the persons within it and their property. Such can be designed and built into an OpenSim (or equivalent) grid. Now how many are interested in pioneering such a thing? We can do a lot better than just bitching and moaning or saying “there oughta be a law”.”

    Instead of complaining we should roll our sleeves up and build an open distributed metaverse.

    I am not too impressed with OpenSim and I think OpenCobalt could provide much more solid foundations for an open source, distributed, P2P metaverse (see my message to the OpenCobalt list below), but the choice of the platform is not the critical point at this moment. OpenSim can also evolve into a suitable platform, especially if it becomes vary popular with a Slexodus of SL refugees.

    My message to the OpenCobalt list:

    Remember the Diaspora story: they proposed to build en open source, distributed, P2P social network and asked for 10.000 $ on kickstarter. They got more than 200.000 $, which means there was a demand for something like Diaspora.

    Now with the impending collapse of Second Life many passionate metaverse dwellers are voicing their distress all over the blogosphere. See for example the last few comments to my article Telepresence Education for a Smarter World:
    http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/3979

    There is, I believe, a clear need for an open source, distributed, P2P metaverse, and I think Open Cobalt could be the best technology ti implement it. At this moment Second Life refugees are rather flocking to Open Sim, but I believe Open Cobalt technology is much more solid and conceptually advanced. It is not yet, however, sufficiently easy for casual users.

    This can be corrected with a project to develop an operational and user friendly hosted instance of Open Cobalt, open to everyone, with support and sufficient server resources and bandwidth. The idea is now discussed at http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/3979.

    I suggest that somebody starts a kickstarter fundraiser for this project at http://www.kickstarter.com/. I cannot start it myself because I am not based in the US, but I am certainly willing to pledge some money and to contribute.

    • Serendipity Seraph says:

      OpenSim is way way more powerful and dependable than OpenCobalt currently. It is also much closer to SecondLife so it has the decided advantage of already being known to a very large number of SL users and developers. It is the logical choice for a diaspora from SL.

      That is not to say nothing else is worth doing but only that anything else currently out there is a much larger risk as new and better home today.

  4. Serendipity Seraph says:

    I agree that many parts of the SL TOS are unacceptable from the POV of true tenants of virtual worlds or even from the point of view of purchasing a “game” for that matter. The bottom line is that we badly need to set up our own grids/worlds where the inhabitant has considerably more rights than is the case in SecondLife. This can be done in OpenSim. We can set set up our own grids run as we like with guarantees of timely backups of all your stuff and ability to take it with you even if the grid was no more. At the very least it would be written into the bylaws that no inhabitant could be deprived of property or left uncompensated for in world currency holding except in cases where something catastrophic and final happened to the entire world (bankruptcy, being taken down by “authorities”, war, etc.). Even in these cases the inhabitants would have their own backups of their inventory and so on. There is the IP problem across all future places the backup could be instantiated but that is a separable issue imho from true virtual world individual rights.

    However I do not agree that SL is doing anything that should be illegal or that you have any legal recourse against them if worse came to worse. Making them liable for people’s addictions or for their reactions should their addiction not be satisfied is a very two edged sword I would not want to have wielded against me if I produced anything that became popular and much loved. They wrote a contract and you agreed. Not much choice when they were pretty much the only game in town. That does not have to be the case going forward. All it takes is enough people that want a virtual world that is different in respect to the rights of the persons within it and their property. Such can be designed and built into an OpenSim (or equivalent) grid. Now how many are interested in pioneering such a thing? We can do a lot better than just bitching and moaning or saying “there oughta be a law”.

  5. Great article Khannea,

    Read the last 2 comments (Valkyrie and I) here:
    http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/3979

    From my comment:

    Read this on Khannea’s blog:
    http://khannea-suntzu.zerostate.net/2010/10/07/dear-citizen-please-report-to-termination-room-101/

    My advice to those who have developed a strong emotional attachment to SL is, get the hell out of SL NOW: SL is going to fold, and you are going to be hurt. Reserve your emotional attachment to the PERSONS you love in SL, not to the platform itself, and let’s build an open source, distributed metaverse for everyone, one that nobody can shut down. You know the Diaspora story – start a kickstarter now, and let’s get busy.

    • Serendipity Seraph says:

      Virtual world are to me a step toward upload spaces and “salvation” beyond the current human body. Better virtual worlds and strong virtual communities are not a hobby. Increasing I see them as a created and shared sacrament.

  6. These are serious issues. Today, we “copyright” fragments of what comes out of our minds. In the future, protected at an even higher level, such informational packages as will be our “mindfiles” will literally be, will be our “minds”, themselves.

    We will want them backed up in every conceivable way, updated frequently and “standard” enough in format to be “run” on every substrate that might be developed. This may be a long time in coming, but come it must.

    Scaling this down to the Second Life issues, which are (at this time) of vital significance for all the reasons given above, what would appeal to me would be the move toward a “format standardization” of everything that can be developed and placed into one’s Second Life “inventory” to such an extent that if one were banned or simply desired to “move” to a new virtual “land”, one could “pack one’s bags, delete one’s Second Life inventory, and teleport over to one’s new homeland”.

    This kind of mobility, and it will be essential, could be compared to the kind of freedom we could have today if instead of being bound to certain national “citizenships” and in many cases being “forbidden to travel or move”, we were able to pack and go at any time and reside wherever we might be welcome, which would hopefully be many places. In no way would “slavery” (entrapment into one virtual domain where one could be “erased”) be tolerated in such a metacivilization, and if the terms of what one could do within any one such place amounted to defacto slavery (as is so prevalent in many places in the world, even today, due to the financial infrastructure that prevails), then “freedom to move” would soon leave “defacto slavery worlds” vacant and bankrupt, unable to cover power or equipment maintenance bills, essentially “ghost towns” (with all the “ghosts” gone).

    A great deal could be and deserves to be said about the engimas posed above. Thank you, Khannea Suntzu, for your (as usual) creative thoughts and for offering the rest of us a chance to respond.

    Boundless Life,

    Fred Chamberlain (AKA boundlesslife)