Free Speech for Avatars! And?like?Now!

by Alphaville Herald on 06/11/04 at 2:32 pm

Ludlow blasts Stratics.


In a Session at The State of Play entitled Avatar Rights, Virtual Liberty, and Free Expression in Virtual Worlds, Peter Ludlow blasted the organized censorship policies of Stratics, while Fred Schauer of Harvard University suggested that the possibilities for free expression in virtual worlds should be used to explore alternative models of free speech. Jack Balkin of Yale maintained that government and the legal profession were going to insert themselves into game worlds whether game devs like it or not and that by offering to protect free speech game companies may be able to insulate themselves from certain kinds of legal liability.

Streaming webcast of the talks can be found here.
Discussion on Terra Nova here.
Article by Daniel Terdiman in Wired Online is here.

30 Responses to “Free Speech for Avatars! And?like?Now!”

  1. ian

    Nov 6th, 2004

    Professor, is there anywhere else to view this video, I and others (correct grammar?) complain about the lag. I know this doesnt concern you but thought you might know. I loved the speech just wish I could view moving video.

  2. urizenus

    Nov 6th, 2004

    Hmmm, can’t u download and view offline?

    Hey Sir, ur famous!

  3. urizenus

    Nov 6th, 2004

    yeah, Sir, just right click the link and save the video to disk. then watch at your leisure.

  4. ian

    Nov 6th, 2004

    Ah I will try that now, I tried doing that before but when I opened it, it was like a hyperlink (and i didnt save the link). Bah.

    Hey yeah btw, thanks for mentioning me! Your speech really was funny.

  5. ian

    Nov 6th, 2004

    Nope, professor still getting it..damn new yorkians!

  6. trailblazer

    Nov 6th, 2004

    I wonder how far game companies will go to supress freedom of speech within their vitual communites?

    While EA went the route of banning accounts, it seems SOE when confronted with the problem of in game protests, such as players gathering in SWG a few months ago in a city to protest certain game decision, SOE sent in their CSR’s acting almost as secret police to break up the protests, CSR’s actually warped away those who refused to comply with the cease and disperse orders,they warped all those refusing to obey to other planets or even to game dungeons where they weren’t ready to fight and get vitrually killed.

    I guess gaming in their virtual worlds is the one true bastion of company dictatorship, where game companies rule with a iron hand, banning freedom of speech and protest, like in the 30′s where companies had their own police to break up strike breakers, it’s interesting if a virtual revelution occurs in all this MMOG’s and players protest more and more to break the company tryanny and win their freedoms, shadows of the real world.

  7. Mick Lite

    Nov 6th, 2004

    Good stuff

  8. claydog

    Nov 7th, 2004

    Good presentation. About time some one showed EA and Stractics their place…

    The one thing i didnt understand was the Evan thing that said hes a game dec. now.. is that in EA or what game??

    Anyway good speech. Good job uri.

  9. ian

    Nov 7th, 2004

    Well Clay, he basically said the same thing last year…

  10. ajdown@jp

    Nov 8th, 2004

    Sheesh recycled crap again. I switched off after a couple of minutes, I was so bored. Are these gatherings just somewhere for bored intellectuals to try and impress each others, or do they actually serve some useful purpose?

    Boo hoo your character got deleted… all because you were so concerned about that poor little girl that supposedly got beaten, yet for some reason you stop covering the story once the media reported it. Pity you weren’t so concerned that you didn’t follow it through and give us a happy ending.

    You really ought to do a refresher course on public speaking, you know, since you seem to keep going on about this, it was a bit painful trying to listen. Or maybe you just have lower accepted standards for presentations in the US. I’d send you a clip of a talk I did recently which you may learn from, but at 142mb its kinda painful to email.


  11. urizenus

    Nov 9th, 2004

    aj, I think you have some issues that need to be worked out.

    As for your offer of advice about public speaking, well thanks aj, I’ll bet you’re a real toastmaster. All those hours talking to mirrors and parrots on tso and all, I’ll bet you got your charisma locked at 10.99.

  12. RB

    Nov 9th, 2004

    It’s 20.00 now Uri.

    Thx to new Extended skilling! :D


    - RB

  13. urizenus

    Nov 9th, 2004

    wow, no wonder aj thinks he’s so fluent! He’s a freakin’ 20 in charisma!

  14. ajdown@jp

    Nov 9th, 2004

    Actually I was talking about real life, perhaps you ought to try it sometime, but it’s ok, I can see you’re far too important to need help, after all you’re a university professor, and what am I, a mere individual.

    You guys spent however long arguing an issue that doesn’t exist. Its a private entity, they can make whatever rules they like, and you CHOOSE to sign up and abide by those rules, or not abide by them and suffer the consequences. That doesn’t take a university degree to figure out, surely.

    The main issue is, once again, skirted round, but that’s no big surprise.



  15. Alix

    Nov 9th, 2004

    I didn’t think it was boring at all. I thought he made some great points and is a fine speaker too. As for real life, AJ, it seems to me that you spend more time posting here, at stratics and witch hunting on TSO than anything else, so maybe it’s you who needs the life?

  16. ajdown@jp

    Nov 9th, 2004

    Sorry Alex, but how would you know that unless you spent MORE time than me looking? I have plenty of life, actually, a full time job as well. TSO is a welcome relax at the end of the day, like some may go to the bar for a beer or three. Is that wrong?

    I don’t go witch hunting, there’s a big difference between LOOKING for people to report, and reporting people you find who, after careful monitoring and investigation, are clearly cheating. I’ve not reported anyone for weeks actually, not that its really any of your business what I may or may not do in game.

    You do realise that the “termination of Urizenus” story is actually over a year old now. Surely after a year there would have been more up-to-date stories to have told this gathering about? If Ludlow hadn’t have gone to the press about it (actually concentrating more on whining about his account closure than the poor little girl he apparently cared about) you wouldn’t be still hearing about it? Notice that after three times of asking the question in this debate alone he still hasn’t answered the question of what happened to the girl after it was reported.


  17. Alix

    Nov 9th, 2004

    AJ, I’m wondering if you actually read any of those articles or comments about the situation back then. Did you see all those responses that EA sent to Peter? They are useless! They were the only ones who had access to the chat logs and still wouldn’t do anything to help! I’m sure that 13 yr. old boy is long gone by now so how can he know what the outcome was?
    As for your comment about how often I’m reading the boards, I only log on to them a few times a week, but I sure as hell know that when I DO check the boards, I’ll see your name splattered all over the place. The dates and times are on every post AJ, so yes, I know that you’re typing your little heart out with your tea and crumpets most mornings.
    Good for you for not reporting anyone in ‘weeks’ as you say! *applauds* Sheesh, I’ve been playing this game for quite a long time now and have never once reported anyone! Please share these careful ‘monitoring and investigation’ techniques that you speak of or at least share them with Maxis. Maybe then the cheaters will be gone! My only hope is one day the tables will be turned and the people who abuse that report button will get the proper punishment.

  18. ajdown@jp

    Nov 9th, 2004

    Are you honestly naive enough to believe that it was the girl, and not the termination, that was the driving force behind the publicity? What we are looking at is a small time university lecturer who siezed an opportunity to publicise his latest book.

    As for times on my posts… remember I am in the UK so I am 5-8 hours ahead of most of the people on the boards, so what may look like ‘tea and crumpets’ time to you could well be evening when I am at home. There’s a lot of people who post a lot more than I do – so I don’t really follow why I should be singled out. But nevertheless, if you wish to stereotype me that’s up to you. You’ve posted twice today in this one thread, I haven’t looked for any other posts….. so does that make you as bad as me?

    Many people have shared on the boards what they feel to be “suspicious behaviour” and potential evidence of cheating and/or botting, so I’m sure you can find it amongst ‘all my posts’. It is, after all, a ‘message board’, with opportunities for mass debating on a variety of subjects. Is it so wrong to be an active member of a community now? I’m not a great Stratics fan, but considering the few alternatives, it’s the least bad option available. If I have something to say on an issue, should I not join in?

    The majority of my reports have come back with a “thank you for helping make The Sims Online a better place to play” than a “not enough evidence”; there are some cases of people abusing the report button to harrass individuals, but if you have nothing to hide then surely a visit from an EA Rep is nothing more than a small inconvenience.

    Anyone who believes in free speech obviously has never paid a telephone bill.


  19. RB

    Nov 9th, 2004


    “thank you for helping make The Sims Online a better place to play”

    is a canned response AJ. It doesn’t mean crap. it can go either way. at least “not enough evidence” is a specific answer.

    And it’s Tea and scones, not crumpets. you almost had it Alix. lol.

    - RB

  20. ajdown@jp

    Nov 10th, 2004

    It may be a canned answer, but if it is a botter and at about the time I get a response they ‘happen’ to log off, I’d say it’s likely that they have been suspended for their illegal actions. If it gets another cheating scumbag out of the way then I have merely used an in-game function in the way it was intended.

    Tea and scones… are we talking afternoon tea here, or morning tea with biscuits? Don’t forget the cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

    Maybe you’re getting confused with an English Cream Tea. Pity you guys over the pond have lost this delightful tradition, it’s expensive having to have clotted cream imported. Never mind eh.


  21. urizenus

    Nov 10th, 2004

    Here we have beer and pork rinds, but its pretty much the same thing as an English Cream Tea.

  22. Prokofy Neva

    Nov 10th, 2004

    Well, this was very instructive, professor. It’s always good to come offline from the game sometimes and go…online into RL and watch another meta game, which is professors talking about games and laws!

    Here’s the most important thing I learned from hearing Uri live and un-sound-byted: the name “Urizenus” does NOT rhyme with the word “anus” as I used to think — Uri-ZANE-us, and which provided endless hilarious fodder for Uri-spoof characters in-game like YourHisAnus and YourAGenius but instead, boys and girls, rhymes with the word “penis”: Uri-ZEEN-is. Live and learn! Maybe they didn’t pronounce the Blake poetry right in my university?

    I also learned that you pronounce MMORPG as “MORE-pegs”. Wow. I never knew that. I always wondered how you pronounce that mouthful. I really need to go to Game U!

    Did anyone ever find out whether that guy’s little sister really did have her jaw broken?
    Did AVH ever interview any actual customers of the Hotel Erotica who can provide actual testimony of whether they used cyberprostitution?

    This conference is really a Horatio Alger success story. AJ, you’re being far too cruel! Uri-ZEEN-us is engaging, low-key, and educational as he talks about all his yellow-journalism type activities in TSO. It shows that balding middle-aged professors from Michigan with flat mid-Western accents fooling around with games can, through the glory and magic of that great new leveler and democratizer, the MORE-PEG, come and be equals to tony Harvard and Yale East Coast establishment figures who pride themselves on being non-gamers. Don’t you love America!

    Ultimately, I would have to tend to agree with AJ, even though he appears not to live in America or have any in-depth understanding of US First Amendment law. Private clubs can set any policies they want — campuses, companies, etc. do the same thing. We pay an entry fee into this private club with our subscription and sign up for the TOS. We could ask some larger questions of whether MORE-PEGS taking over public spaces and using common carriers have certain obligations to the public weal but if anything, player pressure from below isn’t about more free speech, it’s usually about more game company suppression — such as the ATITD fake tempest in a teapot, and the more realistic problem at SL raised by a player who faced racist and hateful language repeatedly from another player without (so far) any Linden reaction.

    The most important issue raised here isn’t about the putative broken-jawed sister or the putative brotheling Evangeline, but about the right of players to have discussion about the game on forums so that they can form their own community consensus. These forums are even more public than the games, and also have issues of common carriers/public spaces, etc. but as we’ve learned from the story of the TSO and Stratics boards, they can be more restrictive of speech than the internal games themselves. These companies routinely censor speech criticial of the companies themselves — as we know, at Stratics, even links unto the third generation web site away from the original link can come into Stratics over-reach and lead to banning.

  23. ajdown@jp

    Nov 10th, 2004

    You’re right, I don’t live in the US, I live in england, at least at the moment. That, however, gives me the opportunity not to get bogged down in interpretations of this that and the other, and tell it like I see it. After all, isn’t that what ‘free speech’ is all about?

    I have nothing personal against Uri, I’m sure if by some quirk we ended up chatting over a pint somewhere it would be an interesting chat… I just continue to feel that much of the stories are sensationalised beyond their importance, and without the ‘professor’ status adding some false sense of credibility to the issue it wouldn’t have even hit the headlines in the first place.

    Does anything useful come out of things like this ‘state of play’ convention, or are they just nobodies talking about nothing of value?


  24. Bentaly

    Nov 11th, 2004

    Speech recognition software converts a user’s words to text, speech synthesis software produces vocalizations for agents and avatars, and keyword matching provides agents with a rudimentary form of language understanding. The speech recognition and speech synthesis engines run on the user’s computer to minimize the amount of data transmitted between users.

  25. blaze

    Nov 11th, 2004

    i bet aj is really just uri

  26. ajdown@jp

    Nov 12th, 2004

    Me and Uri are the same…..?

    Not sure whether either of us should be flattered or insulted!

    Apart from both having/had sims in TSO, I can’t think of anything else that would indicate that we are one and the same…. we turn up in the same arguments time and time again because I’m usually on ‘the other side’ of whatever TNP is saying, ah well.


  27. urizenus

    Nov 12th, 2004

    Prokofy, yes I pronouce it to rhyme with penis. As for the correct pronunciation of Blake’s Urizen, there are two lines of though. One is that it rhymes with ‘reason’ — spoofing on “your reason” which is what Urizen in effect was (the little rationalist living in a world of abstraction), or others say it rhymes with ‘horizon’.

    Bye the way, it’s true. AJ is my alt. But I never admit it when using my alt account.

  28. Prokofy

    Nov 12th, 2004

    I’m going to side with the pronunciation of “Urizen” to rhyme with “Horizon” and figure it’s about the little visionary living in the world of rationalism, or perhaps it’s a prefigurement of an allusion to a 21st century phone company and ISP, and I’ll stick to “Urizenus” to rhyme with “penis” to suggest that it’s about the little…oh never mind. I’m disappointed that AJ is your alt. I was having fun being your alt, after I got done being your board tout.

  29. humdog

    Nov 15th, 2004

    you’re both wrong.

    i’m the alt.

  30. SLJustice

    Jul 29th, 2007

    Dedicated to the virtual freedoms of avatars everywhere.


Leave a Reply