Discussion of Alphaville Herald being censored on Sims Online Stratics Message Boards?

by Alphaville Herald on 15/12/03 at 2:12 pm

Rumor has it that the Sims Online message boards run by Stratics had an interesting thread discussing the termination of Urizenus, but that it was wiped from the boards on the grounds that it constituted a “protest movement” or some such thing. We are looking to confirm this development. If you saw that discussion thread and have some knowledge of its contents please comment below, or contact us via email.

Meanwhile, if you were hoping to discuss the termination of Urizenus or the salon.com article somewhere, there are lots of uncensored places where you can do it. Here are a few of the places.

Law Meme (Yale University Law School)
Terra Nova (moderated by Dan Hunter, Ted Castronova, Jullien Dibbell, and Greg Lastowska)
IGN’s VE3D News
Future Step (Duke University)
Gamegirl Advance
Dungeons and Dreamers
supplemental addition: Earth and Beyond Portal (and this is a great thread!)
(I would just like to pause and opine that if Maxis had just left us alone there would be about six people in the word reading the Alphaville Herald. Moral: ethics aside, censorship is really really dumb.)

The discussion on Slashdot seems to be the most active, but my favorite passage is from the lead article by James Grimmelmann in Yale University Law School’s Law Meme (a blog set up to deal with legal issues surrounding intellectual property, telecommunications policy, first amendment issues, etc.):

“On the one hand, Maxis is close to losing control over their game world. TSO is a positively Brechtian world of violence, flim-flammery, and low-down dirty tricks. (The Herald’s major “sin” was opening a window onto such goings-on.) … But on the other hand, Maxis acts like a classic despot, using its powers to single out individual critics for the dungeons and the firing squads. The usual real-world justification for this kind of arbitrary action is the need for a strong central hand to protect public safety and common welfare. But since Maxis isn’t all that good at those aspects, the Herald censorship smacks more of tyranny for its own sake. “

18 Responses to “Discussion of Alphaville Herald being censored on Sims Online Stratics Message Boards?”

  1. Devon

    Dec 15th, 2003

    There’s also some discussion going on at EBPortal, a Fan Site covering “Earth and Beyond,” another of EA’s online offerings.
    That discussion focuses more on EnB player’s concerns over their being treated fairly in that game, especially in light of this new occurence. Apparently many EnB players have similarly poor things to say about some of the EA staff involved.


  2. urizenus

    Dec 15th, 2003

    Thanks Devon! We will check it out.

  3. LM

    Dec 15th, 2003

    I like this site! Good work, all the way around.

    I have been playing TSO since the first of October, 2002 (ah, the good old beta days).

    I used to post on the old TSO boards. I stopped after a particularly blatant show of favoritism and/or selective enforcement of the TOS occurred. And although I never post on the Stratics boards, I do read them.

    I was stunned this morning when I went to check on the Urizenus thread to see that it was just plain GONE.

    I would say that it was a bad move on EA’s part to delete that thread. It just looks bad.

    Now granted, there may be legal reasons why EA can’t comment on this ongoing saga re the Alphaville Herald, but it sure does look like another case of selective enforcement of the TOS.

    I checked your links here, and some of them do lead to sites that exist to make money via providing cheats and/or patches for clothing and nude bodies for TSO. These are against the TOS to which we all agreed (even if we think it is an unfair rule — for example, how far down the chain does your responsibility go? The site to which you have a link? Or to the links on the site to which you are linked? Or…)

    People were up in arms about what happened to Urizenus, and then some discovered that the links on his website led to sites in violation of the TOS. Some people’s anger was then tempered a bit. Also, if I remember correctly, someone said they checked the profile of Urizenus and the link to the Herald was still there (I am fuzzy on that one).

    The prevailing opinion seemed to be that this was at the least a case of selective enforcement; unfortunately, you did violate the TOS by having your website (which linked to verbotten websites) in your profile. As to when you removed it (in trying to be compliant after you received the notice of suspension), it seems to me that you did not get much of an opportunity to comply (12 hours?). To be banned for life because you had that link in your profile is absolutely ludicrous in my opinion. And I have no comment regarding the charge of cheating — I have no idea if it is true or not, and what with all the known and reported cheaters in the game who continue to cheat AND to play… well…

    And unfortunately, when you stand up and voice an opinion, are critical in a public forum, hell, when you are a publisher exposing the steamy underside of *anything*, you call attention to yourself. If you are doing anything “untoward” then you have to expect that it will be discovered. I am not saying that *I* feel like linking to these sites is bad, but again, you agreed when you signed up to abide by a set of rules.

    Many people were pointing out that Evangeline and others have consistently violated the TOS and yet they are allowed to play. They also point out that it is often those who report these scammers that end up punished. People are puzzled by EA’s enforcement methods, to say the least.

    What is fasinating, too, is what kind of player this environment may be breeding. If you raise a child in an inconsistent, dangerous and confusing environment the child adapts in interesting ways…

  4. Whohah

    Dec 15th, 2003

    Sims Online is starting to feel a little too much like the Stanford Prison Experiment.

    Some people need to learn to unplug and enjoy the limited, but tangible, pleasures of the real world.

    -Colin (not his GODDAMNED typist)

  5. RB

    Dec 15th, 2003

    Maxis aren’t sposed to have any influence over stratics and they are sposed to be independant private companys/websites but it’s certain that maxis still do clearly have thier claws in to some degree.

    - RB

  6. An_innocent_bystander

    Dec 15th, 2003

    “…Maxis acts like a classic despot, using its powers to single out individual critics for the dungeons and the firing squads. The usual real-world justification for this kind of arbitrary action is the need for a strong central hand to protect public safety and common welfare.”

    Is this not why we are in Iraq?

    One the one hand, I appreciate that the machines are kept running for the pleasure of E.A.’s profits, and that ‘linking to linked pages which have links’ can run kid surfers into adult areas of the web. That’s quite understandable.

    On the other hand, I have yet to see a more clear cut case of tyrranical oppression online.

    Would Alphaville Herald been so problematic if it merely told tall tales, spun by writers who dreamed fictional fancies that took place within a virtual world?

    Is it so much a sin to speak of one man’s investigations and attempts at understanding this sliver of artificial society?

    Would my published thoughts of a recent trip to Disneyland and interactions with other park patrons deserve any more or less protection?

  7. Robert

    Dec 15th, 2003

    The discussion of the Alphaville Herald is being censored on Stratics, not because anyone at Maxis thinks this website is starting a protest movement (Henceforth, your sources are incorrect and not well researched) but because discussion of account status is illegal on the Stratics message boards.

    Maxis doesn’t care if Alphaville Herald reports about giving them a bad reputation, the only reason you are being “censored” is because your website violates the Terms of Service and the User Agreement you digitally signed when you installed TSO. This website contains links to various illegal software programs (PhatMoneyBot, Kingware Software) and therefore advertising it ingame is a violation and suspension or termination can result with or without a previous “criminal” record ingame.

    So before you call Maxis or Stratics whistle-blower haters, and before you inform various news sites about fallacious events, IE, “Maxis acts like a classic despot, using its powers to single out individual critics for the dungeons and the firing squads. The usual real-world justification for this kind of arbitrary action is the need for a strong central hand to protect public safety and common welfare.” Get your facts straight, and start following the rules of The Sims Online.

    I suggest you read the user agreement that you agreed to:


    Thanks and best regards,

  8. StingRay

    Dec 15th, 2003

    “Get your facts straight, and start following the rules of The Sims Online.”

    So, prostitution, extortion, racism, destruction of property, money laundering, etc., albeit virtual, must just fall under those “grey areas” that are mentioned within that page you link to.

    What’s bothersome about this is he was given the opportunity to fix the TOS breach, and then relatively immediately (by corporate standards, anyway) was banned.

  9. Robert

    Dec 15th, 2003

    Allow me to quote Urizenus as he speaks on the Stratics boards:

    “I understand the Maxis position on why they don’t want links to sites that link to such sites, and I indeed removed all such links from my bio when I received a warning. I plum forgot that the URL was included in my property description, which apparently led to the 72 hour suspension. 11 hours after being notified of the suspension my account was terminated.”

    This isn’t an issue of child abuse and prositution, this is entirely different and is about the censorship that Maxis and EA supposedly placed upon Urizenus. While child abuse and other issues that are both disgusting and illegal are topics that deserve conversation, this is not about that.

    To sum it all up, despite what various sources say, Urizenus was not banned because he was giving TSO a bad cover, he was banned for his irresponsibillity. Ignorance is not an excuse.

    Best regards,

  10. urizenus

    Dec 16th, 2003

    My my my, Robert, but you *are* the selective quoter. Why don’t you finish quoting what I said? That’s ok, here is the part of my post on Stratics that Robert elided:

    “Can Maxis do this? Of course. TOS says they don’t even need to warn. There is a matter of selective enforcement, however. There remain thousands of sims that still link to these “illegal” sites. The passion and agressiveness with which Maxis pursued this termination, as well as the timing, is what raises questions of fairness (not necessarily legality, but who knows). In the realm of human intentions, we can only speculate. I know what I think. YMMV. “

  11. RB

    Dec 16th, 2003

    “Urizenus was not banned because he was giving TSO a bad cover”

    Continue to live in dream land. It’s partly because of that. you can’t tell me EA like any other mega corporation would’nt squash bad PR that reached the mainstream by taking action on the originator do you??

  12. zach

    Dec 16th, 2003

    Not contract is legal if it’s unconstitutional or agianst the law. I submit that several portions of the EULA wouldn’t stand up in court.

  13. Dyerbrook

    Dec 16th, 2003

    You probably noticed that the posts made by Urzenus, me, and other players on SimStratics last night have all been deleted by moderators. So please don’t bother to discuss anything there, it will be take out. Any reference to being banned in the past is itself banned, so even indirect hints are not allowed. I believe that being banned from the game also means automatic banning from the BBS, so you might check that out.

  14. Texas Carnie Roadshow

    Dec 17th, 2003

    This doesn’t have much to do with the topic, but I thought it was funny.

    “‘…Maxis acts like a classic despot, using its powers to single out individual critics for the dungeons and the firing squads. The usual real-world justification for this kind of arbitrary action is the need for a strong central hand to protect public safety and common welfare.’

    Is this not why we are in Iraq?”

    I can just see it now, 4th ID and 10th Mountain storming the offices of Maxis. That is just funny.

  15. Mr. Smith

    Dec 17th, 2003

    The Stratics rule about no discussion of bans or suspensions is enforced pretty consistently, so I could tell the “Free Urizenus” post was going to get pulled. Other rules, like no posting of commercial URL’s or exploit discussions, seem to be enforced only when the post itself might be unpleasant for Maxis, though. I could almost tell when they made the decision to kill off the auto-maze. It was probably the exact moment Stratics stopped instantly removing any posts about it. Don’t nobody tell me they are independent.

    The same goes for game warnings and suspensions. The rules that are easy to document, like naming violations, are strictly enforced. The ones that are harder for them to prove, like going through somebody’s web links or catching them cheating (which wouldn’t be all THAT hard), are only pursued if the offender is causing some embarassment. Almost everybody that plays has done something at one time or other that could be interpreted as a TOS violation by somebody looking for an excuse to punish you for your opinions.

    In general, I think they try to be fair, but Maxis has absolute control over the game accounts. Any human with absolute power can’t help but be tempted to use it once in a while.

  16. Cocoanut

    Dec 19th, 2003

    I am the one who originally posted the link to the Salon article, having been given it by someone else.

    I didn’t keep a copy of my post, but I was careful, I believe, not to mention, myself, that the banning had occured. As a result, the thread was able to continue on as long as it did, while we tried to piece together what had happened. The mods were good about letting it go on, too.

    The most headway those who posted after me made was to determine that there were links on the Alphaville Herald to sites which are not supposed to be linked to, and that there was some problem in the amount of time given the professor to comply.

    As to the links to links to links question someone brought up above, I made myself quite unpopular, no doubt, to the mods a week or so ago (before the Professor case) in insisting on – over the course of many waffling responses – to an answer to that question. I made a very big deal of it. The answer I finally got was that you could not link to a banned site, but you could link to a place that itself had a link to a bad site (assuming, I presume, your apparent motive was not getting to the bad site in the first place).

    I pressed for this answer due to another player who had been banned through an unfortunate and not compassionate series of circumstances. He has since been reinstated. I was working along these same lines on behalf of the professor. Because I have this belief in and need for fairness and justice.

    Yes, you are correct, that most of us who were sympathetic could no longer stand up for the professor once it was determined that rules had been broken at some point (regardless of the remaining question of how many hours had been given to comply). But I was still working along the lines of the hours he was given to comply, under my general desire for compassionate justice. Until he ticked me off, lol (you can ask him about that if you like).

    Meanwhile, since all this with the professor, we have had another situation on the boards which leaves me no longer posting to them after a year of posting as a regular and well-known and reasonably regarded poster. We were raked rather hysterically over the coals by a mod who stated that she was “100% disgusted by most of the people on this site.”

    She felt this way because (1) of the heated arguments that had gone on over the SARP discussion (Sims Against Ridiculous payments), (2) nasty PM’s the mods had gotten from some posters, and probably (3) the professor business.

    A game representative came along later to take up her cause, and to add that since we on the Stratics Sims boards were only 1% of the players, we couldn’t expect to effect any change anyway.

    I got on at that point to stand up for us, pointing out that most of us had not sent any offending PM’s to the mods. (Nor have most of us acted ungratefully to the new goodies put in the game.) I also pointed out that we should not be held responsible or chastized by what a few posters do. And that we did represent the players.

    I was told that I was just reading it wrong. An apology for the “disgusting” remark was never made. The thread was locked.

    You can go read the thread about it if you are interested in what all I pointed out (but you better hurry in case it disappears). You can also read my comments on the thread about “changing the ROK rules” or something to that effect, started by the Stratics person herself, Breckies, in response to yet another earlier post of mine, in “how can we make this a better community.” That ROK thread has been locked, too. (I don’t know about the community one.)

    I am no longer a happy Sim camper.


  17. urizenus

    Dec 19th, 2003

    Hey Coco, thanks for posting. I wrote to you in the stratics system apologizing for what must have looked like me carping at you, but I was really P.O.ed that everyone was allowed to opine about what happened except for me. I understand that you were only trying to help.

    Now, if it is the case that links to links to illegal sites are o.k., as they told you, then a link to the AV Herald should be legal and they had absolutely no grounds for suspending me in the first place.

    How they can terminate me 11 hours into a 72 hour suspension (11

  18. urizenus

    Dec 21st, 2003

    Wow, it only took me two weeks but I was finally able to track down and verify the deleted “Free Urizenus” thread on the Stratics Boards. Following is the residue of it (just the post headers, actual posts have been deleted). Thanks to everyone for trying to discuss this matter. Sorry I wasn’t able to participate.

    Click here to remove these ads!

    Sims Online Stratics | Rules of Conduct | Forum Help
    Main Index | Search | New user | Login | Who’s Online | FAQ

    General Discussion | City Hall | Show Thread (Threaded)
    Thread views: 376

    Entire thread
    Subject Posted by Posted on
    Free Urizenius! Cocoanut 12/13/03 11:00 AM
    Re: Free Urizenius! TSO Holiday 12/13/03 01:31 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! TonyCeponi 12/13/03 01:33 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! willinglabrat 12/13/03 02:03 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! TonyCeponi 12/13/03 01:05 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Bae Is Me 12/13/03 03:16 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! willinglabrat 12/13/03 03:48 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! CherryBomb 12/13/03 08:06 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Walba 12/13/03 05:44 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Katheryne 12/14/03 12:55 AM
    Re: Free Urizenius! KithKanathalasan 12/14/03 01:02 AM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Bluegurl 12/14/03 08:09 AM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Katheryne 12/14/03 08:08 AM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Lilly_Lopez 12/13/03 06:10 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! bunnyklerz 12/13/03 07:44 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! TonyCeponi 12/13/03 08:37 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Enilk Libb VI 12/13/03 08:45 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Donavan 12/13/03 06:26 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Cocoanut 12/13/03 02:15 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! TonyCeponi 12/13/03 02:28 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Cocoanut 12/13/03 02:51 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! willinglabrat 12/13/03 03:02 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! willinglabrat 12/13/03 01:09 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! willinglabrat 12/13/03 11:53 AM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Bae Is Me 12/13/03 12:15 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! willinglabrat 12/13/03 01:00 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! SaraFunnyweather 12/13/03 12:55 PM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Bae Is Me 12/13/03 11:34 AM
    Re: Free Urizenius! Willa@TSO 12/13/03 11:14 AM

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