FTC Report to US Congress Finds Explicit Content in Second Life!!!

by Alphaville Herald on 11/12/09 at 6:49 pm

…or not so much

by Sigmund Leominster

FTC Your tax dollars have been at work once again in the expert hands of a committee commissioned by Congress and handled by the Federal Trade Commission. This is the same FTC that failed to catch Bernie Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme, and the same Congress that handed out money to poor bankers who went bust yet ignored the requests of mortgage owners to give them time to avoid being kicked out of their homes and onto welfare – so you know your money is in good hands.

The FTC Commission has just released a report to Congress entitled Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risk, which is available in its entirety (except for the videos) from the Federal Trade Commission’s website: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/12/virtualworlds.shtm. The aim of the study was to examine the ease, or difficulty, with which children and teens can access “explicit content” in places like Second Life, Gaia, Twinity, My Diva Doll, and Pixiehollow. Inexplicably, my personal favorite, BarbieGirls.com was absent from the report. We could imagine that the project was underwritten by Mattel Corps® but that would be pure speculation and potentially libelous. So we won’t.

The press release announces, somewhat dramatically, “FTC Report Finds Sexually and Violently Explicit Content in Online Virtual Worlds Accessed by Minors,” which conjures up images of poor, helpless little Jimmy finding his Second Life avatar strapped to a table in a dungeon while being molested by huge-breasted Post Six trannies and having bizarrely scripted chickens inserted into unfeasible large orifices.

Sadly, on taking time to read through the turgidly unsensational report, it turns out that a more accurate headline would have been “FTC Investigators Fail To Get Stiffies In Boring Virtual Worlds”.

After spending an entire paragraph defining “sexually explicit” using phrases like “overly detailed genitalia,” “bestiality,” and “depictions of uncovered female breasts,” and defining” the researchers turn out to have a hard time – or is that a soft one? – trying to find them. And bear in mind that these researchers were told explicitly to look for such behavior, which suggests there wasn’t any around or they just didn’t have the connections.

Similarly, the researchers tease us with “violently explicit” as including “excess/gratuitous blood or the mutilation of body parts” and “violence toward animals,” but alas, no chickens were harmed in the making of this report. Or avatars in general. Someone didn’t find the Dolcett role-play folks.

FTC text
When they actually did find some “explicit content,” half was restricted to text-based representations (“Yeah Barbie, suck my cock, you trash-talking whore”) and only 17% of any such content turned out to involve moving avatars. Oh, and that was also restricted to a paltry five of the 27 worlds visited. The chances are that little Jimmy is actually getting more action at a rainbow party in real life than a BDSM club in cyberspace.

Still, undeterred by the facts, the Commission did make a number of recommendations, which is good because folks get a little touchy when government money gets spent without anything coming out at the end. One was to suggest that virtual world operators improve their language filters to make sure minors don’t get to use words like “feck,” “shut,” “cork,” “and “dickhead.” Damn, one slipped through!

Lucky for Second Life residents that Linden Lab doesn’t have a language filter; firstly because it would infringe on the right to free speech and secondly because without profanities, many SL residents would find it hard to actually produce any sort of coherent sentence. Check the fucking comments to this fucking post and you’ll see that its the fucking truth.

Another recommendation is that providers should employ “a staff of specially trained moderators whose presence is well known in-world and who are equipped to take swift action against conduct violations.” In real life we call this a Police Force but the FTC seems to think that “trained moderators” sounds much more politically neutral. Whether or not Linden Lab should crack the whip and begin employing a small army of “boys in blue” to keep an eye who’s having sex with a donkey is open for discussion.

However, let’s be fair and mention that the report doesn’t just blame the service providers for failing to keep 10-year-old Jimmy from engaging in a fap-fest while touting for gay tricks with furries in Zindra. The Commission does recommend that “…parents and children alike become better educated about the benefits and risks of youth participation in online virtual worlds. The Commission is committed to ensuring that parents have the information they need to decide which online virtual worlds may be appropriate for their children.”

However, if the paucity of profanity and promiscuity that the report seems to suggest turns out to be the true, then the real danger to kids in virtual worlds is that they could die of terminal boredom.

18 Responses to “FTC Report to US Congress Finds Explicit Content in Second Life!!!”

  1. Bubblesort Triskaidekaphobia

    Dec 11th, 2009

    Fucking brilliant!

  2. みみか 王

    Dec 11th, 2009

    I found explicit content in non-virtual worlds accessible by minors.

  3. Imnotgoing Sideways

    Dec 11th, 2009

    Looks like Linden Lab finally has to admit that there really is sex on the teen grid. =^-^=

  4. WolfBaginski Bearsfoot

    Dec 12th, 2009

    Remembering my years as a teen, it makes me uncomfortable when everyone under-18 is lumped together as minors. But how many laws might a minor break just to get onto Zindra?

  5. Jumpman Lane

    Dec 12th, 2009

    I thought all the kids were too busy running errands for gay tony in liberty city to give a shit about sexin it up in second life …i thought only fat plumbers dit that hehehehehe

  6. DF

    Dec 12th, 2009

    Chances are the boys in blue will be the ones having the sex with the donkeys. Uless they prefer to just watch.

  7. MattyK

    Dec 12th, 2009

    “The aim of the study was to examine the ease, or difficulty, with which [b]children and teens[/b] can access “explicit content” in places like [i]Second Life[/i], Gaia, Twinity, My Diva Doll, and Pixiehollow.”

    …Remind me again, isn’t Second Life 18+, and most ToS’s for it would agree that you are “hereby over the age of 18″ etc…

    Yeah, I think we should question why the Government is questioning the acessability of such games… ‘Specially with SL having by far, the hardest Account Creation System to date, ‘specially when your real D.O.B. completely voids the system back to ’05 and tricks it into thinking you weren’t born yet.

  8. Ranma Tardis

    Dec 13th, 2009

    Think the American tax paying dollar at work. Suppose they will hire a group of civil servants at 50k plus a year to bravely monitor second life for perverts. No wonder America is broke!

  9. Overcast

    Dec 13th, 2009

    What a waste.

  10. DF

    Dec 13th, 2009


    If dead guys like M. Hatta and Elvis Prestley can get into SL, its suprising that you cant.

    and being 18+, says eactly zilch of course. GTA is 18+ as well, and you dont want to know how many parents dont even concider the possibility that its not suitable for their 12 year olds. I have 2 colleagues with kids under ten who let them play GTA.

    Age ratings are good for publishers, for the rest they mean jack sh*t. (IMHO the rating system is a big bag of wind anyway, after seeing the MPAA works and who owns the board)

    That SL is adults only, merely means that LL can say “Hey, not our fault!” when lil timmy does get caught by daddy in a sex sim. It doesnt mean that the little timmies of the world WONT get onto SL. Just look at the number of square guys wearing more bling then a christmas tree, there are PLENTY of minors on the grid.

  11. Leftover Waffle

    Dec 13th, 2009

    Okay, let’s make this really simple, shall we?

    Pornography. Is All Over. The Internet.

    Anything that slows a teenager down from going from zero to jizzty – such as emoting and typing complete sentences in a borky, glitched out virtual world where textures never load and attachments never attach – is a waste of their time. They do what we all do, set the web video to forty seconds before the spunk shot and press PLAY.

    The only ones wasting their time in this pointless virtual pornoventure are thirty and fortysomethings who have enjoyed far too much cake in their lives.

  12. Jumpman Lane

    Dec 13th, 2009

    congress dont care about the kids! the want powah and they mean business! personally i’m torn between virtual porn and runnin errands for gay tony and dumpin on front yard royalty! gsf4life!

  13. Prof. Archie Lukas

    Dec 15th, 2009

    Total wankers

    but as they say…..ONLY IN AMERICA

    Well we all do in the rest of the bloody World.

  14. Sigmund Leominster

    Dec 16th, 2009

    And least we think freedom of speech is a right, check out this news story from yesterday…

    “The Federal Government will introduce compulsory internet filtering to block overseas sites which contain criminal content, including child sex abuse and sexual violence.”

    This is NOT China or Iran or some third-world dictatorship but Australia!


    This is what happens when you (or we, the people) let governments “take care of us.” Oh, and the reason for such filtering? Why, “to protect the children” of course!

  15. Scylla Rhiadra

    Dec 16th, 2009

    Interesting post, Sigmund. You have some details wrong, I should note: the Australian legislation has not passed yet, for one thing.

    For the record, I dislike the Australian government’s legislation. I think there are lots of reasons to oppose the proposed filtering, mostly because it seems likely to cast far too wide a net, and will probably be in any case unworkable, but I am rather curious about the particular terms of reference of your post.

    Do you oppose in principle the filtering of “criminal content,” such as child sex abuse and sexual violence? Were it possible to filter these out without impacting upon more benign materials, would you support it? Or do you believe that the internet should make all materials, including, say, real child porn and snuff films available?

    Can you fill me in a little on the exact nature of your opposition to this?

  16. DF

    Dec 18th, 2009

    Either anything is permitted, or nothing is permitted. The internet should remain free of any and all censorship.

    Even if certain given ‘criminal content’ could be blocked without censoring anything but the targeted content, who makes the rules on what is regarded criminal content? And who guarantees that *only* criminal content will be blocked, and not also content that a given government or censoring institution finds unsuitable for ‘their’ people?

    Censorship is a very slippery slope, the step from blocking for instance snuff to blocking political discussion sites is a very small one. It can be a tool used for right reasons, but it can too easily be abused for wrong reasons.

    I would hate living in Australia, China or other opressive countries. I’m glad that in my own country of residence, the internet is still a free and open technology without any restrictions in content or data transfer. No matter what kind of data it is.

  17. Bucky Bee

    Dec 21st, 2009

    OMG, is it Moral Panic Day again? Already? This sure brings back fond memories of Moral Panic Days past. I can still recall the festive fun we all had panicking over the apocalyptic effects on America’s Youth of… video games, online games, techno-thrash-goth music, Black Sabbath, explicit lyrics, witches, reefer, Satanism, Dungeons & Dragons, skirts that expose the ankle, Elvis, Playboy, Bettie Page, gay marriage, phone sex, The Catcher in the Rye, color TV, penny dreadfuls, absinthe, women’s suffrage, the emancipation of slaves, and dropsy.

    Here we go again.

  18. Sigmund Leominster

    Dec 30th, 2009

    @Scylla: I have no opposition, as such, to the FTC investigation, but as a tax payer I question the value of it. Where I do have opposition is to the notion of a government making decisions about what should and shouldn’t be allowed in the sphere of human behavior or thought. I have an objection to any attempts by a government to limit, or ban, even the discussion of topics, especially when those topics are about ethics and morality. The hope is always that an elected government is ultimately responsible to the voters and can be voted out, but that can so easily be manipulated.

    (a)”Do you oppose in principle the filtering of “criminal content,” such as child sex abuse and sexual violence?”

    That’s one of those “when did you stop beating your wife” questions, isn’t it ;) But yes, I oppose filtering of content – whether that content is “criminal” is a different notion.

    (b) “Were it possible to filter these out without impacting upon more benign materials, would you support it?”

    Once again, this begs the question. I don’t believe there is any technology currently available that could do this as an internet file is little more than a bundle of zeros and ones that become “criminal” only when translated into a readable form.

    (c) Or do you believe that the internet should make all materials, including, say, real child porn and snuff films available?

    I believe the internet already allows anything, which would include real child porn and alleged snuff films. The execution of Saddam Hussain and journalist Daniel Pearl were televised “live” over the internet. Making things “available” on the internet is NOT like making things “available” in a library.

    But I’m up for a “thought experiment” here: So what if there were some super-duper “Colossus Computer” that could scan every single collection of bits transmitted to the internet in real time AND could analyze the data to determine if it coded an image that was “criminal” – would I still be OK with that? Mmh, I still think not because I would also have to assume that Colossus was benign and able to make black and white judgments, which is probably an intractable problem. For example, not many years ago, I could pick up a copy of the “Sun” newspaper back in the UK with a picture of a topless 16-year-old on page three. Technically, if I popped that in my briefcase and it was found by the customs person in the US, I could have been arrested for child porn. Note that this not about whether topless 16-year-olds is “good or bad” but the legal difference between two countries. Which law would Colossus use?

    I am an immigrant to the US and find that the First Amendment is something that (a) US folks tend to forget the value of, and (b) is the single most powerful aspect of the constitution. Protecting freedom of speech is so important because once you lose it, it is so very hard to get it back. And it doesn’t get taken away from you all at once but slice by slice.

    Sorry for the long post. Next time I’ll send an e-mail ;)

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