Op/Ed: Linden Labs and Griefers – Hands on or off?

by Alphaville Herald on 27/03/05 at 7:11 am

by Neal Stewart


One of the perks of working for the Herald, other than the sex, drugs and heavy metal music… and the power… and the riches… other than those, one of… and the fame…. other than those, one of the perks is being able to pass your forum posts off as Op/Ed’s.

The number of people who regularly frequent the Second Life forums is comparable to the Herald’s regular readership. However, it’s probably not the same residents visiting both. I mean, my mum’s not good with forums. So every now and then it pays to give a shout-out to our forum-bedraggled brethren and their dialectic mortal combat. And vice versa.

And every now and then you’ll write a forum post so carefully that you’ll wish you’d posted it as an Op/Ed. So you have to give a shout-out to yourself.

Also, it’s a very important issue and not at all about my own personal posts. Would you buy that?

OK. So what’s the context? Linden Labs are taking some heat in the forums at the moment. It is argued that LL are not adequately dealing with griefers and abuse in Second Life. That the problem is reaching epic proportions. Some of the more prominent recent examples of alleged griefing include anti-homosexual flags, KKK avatars/imagery, profanity in user-profiles and RL death-threats. The Herald has also recently covered alleged privacy invasion, Welcome Area nukes, Nazi training camps, and WTC 911 humour. And some intellectual hotshot also wrote an editorial on virtual-world free speech.

I had thought that my position on this was quite common in SL but it hasn’t received as much voice in some of the threads lately as I would expect. I appreciate that the position is contrary to what the Terms of Service and Community Standards currently prescribe. Personally, I don’t think a player should be banned for displaying anti-gay flags, swatikas etc. I think that residents should be allowed to identify the creators/perpetrators publicly. Then I think that residents should react individually as they see fit; Be it using the ratings/reputation system (which I think should be radically improved/overhauled), using land-bans, refusing to do business with them, etc, talking to them about it, giving them a piece of their mind, telling their friends etc. Or doing nothing at all.

That’s kind of easy to say but it’s tricky when you consider alts (alternate accounts). A resident can create a griefer alt for the express purpose of making anti-gay flags etc (as they appear to have done) and then avoid any of the repercussions of their actions. They can spend all their time in SL using their non-griefer account. I don’t know what the solution is there. Are there any technical solutions or is it ultimately a dead end? I think that many will use that objection as another argument for bans based on resident majority-opinion. I prefer empowering individuals where possible rather than allowing majority-opinion bans. On the other hand, this alts problem only applies to griefers who build something and leave it there. Griefers who actively disrupt events could be more adequately dealt with, given the right tools, regardless of whether or not they are alts.

To clarify, I do think that people who make direct RL death-threats should be perma-banned and the proper authorities notified etc. I also appreciate it that it is a fuzzy area.

I’m not arguing here about what Linden Labs must do or are entitled to do, or what rights they have as a company and what rights we have as residents and customers. I’m just saying that personally I prefer the hands-off approach to LL governance.

I’m not addressing anyone in particular, but I think that residents should think twice before arguing that the Linden Labs response, or lack of response, to griefing is evidence of incompetence or small-cojones. It is possible that that’s the case but I believe that overall they are very conscious of what they’re doing and are working with a very deliberate (though sometimes slightly-inconsistent) policy in mind. Having said that, residents have told me that the response-time to abuse-reports is inadequate. But because I’m for resident-action rather than Linden-action, I probably can’t say much about that :)

To be honest, I think it is improbable that my libertarian or quasi-libertarian position will ever be reflected in the TOS/CS (ie. that they will be made more lenient). So I think that the most practical solution would be to combine both view-points as it were. If LL can improve resident powers to respond to griefers etc, then libertarians can respond using their own ‘weapon of choice’ and residents who prefer LL abuse-reports/bans etc can choose to use that avenue. In the long-term, improving resident anti-griefing powers will also alleviate LL’s workload, in terms of the resources it costs them to respond adequately to abuse reports. I think that one measure in particular that would go a long way is a more complex and thorough rating/reputation system that is integrated with access rights to land or even vendor-purchases etc. To my mind, the use of even the simplest blacklists, though problematic, might be preferrable to complete SL-bans. But that’s just one option.

What technical solutions or tools could LL provide to give residents their own more-adequate anti-griefing powers, and which ones are currently insufficient? And perhaps just as importantly, what technical solutions or scripting tools can we provide ourselves with?

Forum highlights:

“Reputation system”

“Please have a backbone, Linden Lab”

“Anti-Gay Attack on My Pickerel Land : (“

“Why is there so much tolerance for repeated griefing/threats?”

One Response to “Op/Ed: Linden Labs and Griefers – Hands on or off?”

  1. ‎‏

    Mar 28th, 2005

    people are hurting my feelings with their inflammatory internet speech ;_;

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