The SLENZ Update – No 106, June 29, 2009

Addendum  to SLENZ Update, No 105:

Hysteria over Australian SL-block

rumours: fear-mongering or worse …

The Sydney Morning Herald  journalist, Asher Moses, who wrote “Web filters to censor video games” – the story which led to “mass” Second Life hysteria – has disclosed to SLED-lister, Second Life resident  and PhD candidate in the  School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics,  at the University of Queensland, Morgan Leigh, that Second Life was never actually mentioned by Australian Senator Conroy or his spokesperson,  just “online games”.

Moses told Leigh that the story was based on a question the Green’s senator for Western Australia, Scott Ludlam, had asked of the government.

The question was “(13) Will computer games exceeding the requirements of the MA15+ classification be RC (refused classification) and potentially blocked by ISPs on a mandatory basis for adults; if not, what other exceptions to RC would be similarly permitted.”

Leigh told  SLED-listers this information, and other information on Ludlam’s questions on filtering and censorship,   could be found at

Leigh said Moses had “expressed surprise at the resultant hype regarding Second Life”.

Leigh, however, also told SLED-listers, “The latest (Australian) Government should have learned from the previous attempts  ( to filter internet content) that unless it wants  to turn Australia into  China it cannot widely block access.

“I for one am totally not worried that I will wake one day soon to find Second Life unavailable to me,” he said. “I am, however, worried by the broader issue of governments seeking to decide for adults what those adults can and cannot do.

“Australia is sadly lacking any kind of bill of rights. Our constitution apparently ‘implies’ we have certain rights, like free speech etc., but beyond that we are still just subjects of  Her Majesty.”

The SLENZ Update – No 105, June 29, 2009


Hysteria over Australian SL-block

rumours:  fear-mongering or worse …

CENSOREDLooks like bulldust to me …

I haven’t commented on the latest round of histrionics and hysteria fomented by “tabloid” bloggers about the Australia moves … but as one of the most authoritative writers on virtual worlds,  James Wagner Au (pictured), has pointed out in NewWorldNotes it’s more about smoke than substance, with Second Life and video games bloggers implying a lot more from the Sydney Morning Herald story than is actually in it.WagnerJAu

I say this  despite the fact that  the Christian Today Australia, an online Christian “tabloid”,  in a blatent, unattributed lift from one of the more rabid bloggers, Duncan Riley,   said today that  Second Life was to be “banned in Australia” and that this had been confirmed by a spokesperson for Australian Federal Minister  Stephen Conroy  that “under the (Australian Rating System) filtering plan,  it (censorship) will be extended to downloadable games, flash-based web games and sites which sell physical copies of games that do not meet the MA15+ standard.” [The MA15+ means restricted to those people ages 15 and above.  Games for 18-plus “adults” are classed as RC (Refused Classification) because of pornographic, illegal material,  certain forms of ‘hate speech” and  copyrighted content, despite some Australian States having legalised brothels and a large  “adult” porno industry both in real life and easily accessed on the net]

The story just grows like Topsy: the interpretation of one trenchant critic of  Australian Government filtering of internet content, quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as referring to the possibility of Second Life being blocked, has become fact. But  whether true or not it’s important to New Zealand residents of Second Life because it gives more “ammunition” to critics in New Zealand even if that “ammunition” is more akin to bulldust than reality.

But one thing that seems very common among Second Life residents is the propensity to have panic-attacks and anxiety complexes and to find rumour and innuendo nutritious.

The possibility of an Australian ban/block  on Second Life has been canvassed off and on for months in various media – but there has never really been anything more than a little smoke.

And, anyway even if the Australian Government does receive “complaints” and goes ahead with a “ban” it need have no effect on educators.

Zindra Alps_002Adult Zindra – virtually another  Second Life game which could be
blocked without harm to Australian educators …

With the creation of Zindra, Linden Labs have virtually created two “games” – to use the Australian reference – and it should be easy enough under the current filtering regime being trialed by Australian ISPs for any Federal Government agency to block the “adult” potentially more raunchy game while continuing to allow access to the “PG, Mature” Second Life without the raunch.

Although not on line this has been done with video games sold in  real life shops in Australia, such as Grand Theft Auto and Fallout 3, with a special edition being created for their Australian audiences.

Given this, for teaching purposes, “blocks” on the “Adult” game should not affect Australian educators because they have no reason to go into Zindra (for education purposes) and so should have little effect on the real life education and business uses of  Second Life  in Australia – unless, of course, the main reason for some Australian “educators” being in the game is “adult” content.

I also wonder whether the Australian video games industry is not promoting this issue and the Second Life connection to it in a bid to deflect criticism and draw Second Life and other virtual worlds into their bed, as it were, to obfuscate the real issues of violence and violent sex  in many video games.

The debate, however,  as noted above is obviously not about pornography because some of the most raunchy pornographic picture and video sites on the web originate from Australia, and have only rudimentary age checks (answer what date you were born before accessing this site) and so are, in reality, open to anyone of any age: as they are not” games” however, they appear not subject to the debate in the on-line games context.

Finally, as an afterthought, I think money could be well spent on doing research on Second Life residents and Second Life bloggers to see whether they have a higher propensity for hysteria  and paranoia than the average person who doesn’t get “addicted” to SecondLife. *grin*