The SLENZ Update – No 58, March 13, 2009

SL adult content changes

A massive blog over-reaction?


Sex workers in the Birdcage’s Red Light District

Given the cacaphony of noise  from writers in the world of Second Life, MUVE  and MMORPG blogdom there seems to have been a massive  over-reaction  to the Linden Lab’s attempt to soften the impact of  the porn industry on those who might not care to be hit in the face with adult activities in their virtual playground, education centre or business enterprise.

The Lindens, in their announcement yesterday on the upcoming changes for adult content, basically said (the italics are mine):

“The system we build will have three main features, which we will describe in great detail over the next few months. First, it will provide a way to geographically separate Adult content and activities to a part of the “mainland” designed to accommodate these activities (Estate owners with Adult content on their land will be required to flag their content; they will not be required to move). Second, it will filter search results, so that those who do not wish to see “Adult” results will not. Third, it will require that those who access or see “Adult” content (whether on land or in search) have had their accounts verified – such as by a payment or age verification method.”

While others describe this as a massive change which  will  create “SLamsterdam … silos of sin”  to the “earth moved in Second Life” , “certainly one of the most — perhaps the most — far-reaching and profound set of changes to Second Life since 2003” , “Second Life putting a leash on sex, violence“, “Amsterdammed: Linden Lab to Segregate “Adult” Content in Second Life to Red Light Continent (Real Life ID Required)”,  I see the change as more evolutionary than revolutionary and one that is necessary  if Second Life is to move from cult status to mainstream.It also is necessary if one is not to scare away  your average potential mainstream users such as students/educators/learning facilitators,  normal business enterprises, and ordinary people who are not into Stroker Serpentine’s “tools”, the sex trade,  or the seamier side of furrydom and some of the more wayout kinks of some human avatars.

Core goals

It is obvious from the Linden document that  the organisation does not plan on banning these sort of operations,  just  moving them to a town or country (geographic area within SL)  where they don’t spook the horses any more, or by corralling them. And with fair warning there isn’t likely to be any NIMBY activity. The core goals of this initiative are to improve Second Life for everyone – by giving Residents more control over what they see, and by providing the best available method to make Adult content accessible only to those who adult enough (and who desire to)  to access it.

The Lindens, who have initiated a six-week debate on the issue, said, “We understand this may sound like a major change for some Residents, landowners and merchants. However, we are committed to ensuring that all three of these features are implemented easily and efficiently, so merchants and other landowners will not be disadvantaged, and Residents’ freedom and creativity ultimately will not be impeded.

“We also understand that this effort will hinge on manageable guidelines and definitions. Simply defining “Adult” content is not easy — its definition can vary across different geographic and personal boundaries  … we will introduce guidelines and define what “Adult” means, we will explain how to designate and “flag” this content, we will introduce the “Adult Continent,” and we will implement technical changes to make this process as efficient as we can.”

” We do think this will make Second Life more attractive to all kinds of users, including those focusing on business and education,”  a Linden spokesperson told  Virtual World News. “Fundamentally this is about giving Residents more control over their Second Life experience. For those who want to experience adult content, it will be easier to find. For those who don’t, it will be easy to avoid.”

No “real limitation”

It appears to me from closely reading the Linden document that this will not limit those who confine their adult activities to private islands, private voice or private text:  as in the “real” world of cyber sex they will continue with their activities wherever and whenever no matter what the Lindens decree. For them, I believe, the SL “flesh” trade, the scripted accoutrements, the adult-themed joints, and the explicit animations are no more than an amusing sideshow. Second Life for them is more about introductions/meetings/hooking-up than cartoon sex, as it is for ordinary residents both in MUVEs and in real life.

So although there will be little real change for the majority, except to alleviate the visibility and get rid of the nuisance of  adult-themed sites,  there is obviously going to be a wide-ranging debate over freedoms – the liberterians, anarchists and merchants of free love versus the moral majority (wonder if there is a moral majority or minority in SL) and the fuddy-duddies.

The Lindens move though will probably spike the guns of  anti-internet porn  crusader Mass. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal who is apparently looking for other targets following his success  with Myspace and censorship authorities in countries like Australia who are  enforcing or not enforcing (depending on one’s viewpoint) classifications for MMORPGs among other things.

But, as noted above, in actual fact,  no matter what the Lindens do about  “corralling” adult pursuits in world,  adults will continue to do as they do now even in such innocuous MMORPGs  as The Sims:   make friends,  fall in and out of  love or lust, and make-out in some way.  Give an adult a method of communicating, and he/she, if he/she chooses, will always find  a way to do something more than just communicating.

Not so Welcome areas

As an aside, to go with the latest Linden move one would hope  that the Lindens endulge in a little better policing of the PG -rated Linden welcome areas: that’s where the horses get scared and no doubt many average newbies give the game away.

A quick teleport around  the best-used welcome areas at busy times can be both eye-opening and even eye-watering. They appear to be peopled by many avatars who act like 13-year-old thugs and who use voice and gestures for foul language, uncouth suggestions and general bullying which is tantemount to abuse and griefing.

Perhaps these types can be given their own welcome area in an adult sim, but that would probably defeat their reason for being: too “shock and awe”  the newbs.

I, however,  believe Second Life would be better off without them.