Monday, July 02, 2007

Stop the SL Criminalisation!

For a while now, the press, tired of talking about "sex" and "freaks" and "addiction" and "escapism", and, later, after a couple of years of talking about "business", have found a new way of misinforming the public: now the 7.7 million users of Second Life are portraited as criminals.

This is a new phase of the press. Probably they think that they can indeed insist on this new theme to gather the attention of their readers. After all, if sex doesn't sell a story, crime is the next best thing. And thus we're now labelled as people engaged in all sorts of criminal activities: from paedophilia, to gambling, to exploitation. There hardly isn't something every week to make the press happy — from the Bragg vs. Linden case to the German government's allegations that Linden Lab has to control content better (Linden Lab, in fact, is considering giving RL governments the necessary tools to enforce this — which might be far more important to stimulate growth in countries like China than Germany, anyway), to all sorts of scams and dubious business surrounding the World Stock Exchange or other SL-financial institutions, or pure and simple content piracy (always a recurring topic). Get a grumbling resident on an interview, and they'll have a story to tell. In a world where journalists hardly require to verify their sources (they can always apologise after the fact and retract their words), this is starting to worry 99.9999% of all residents, who definitely are far from being anything but "criminals", but are all thrown into the same bag by the ever-stereotyping media.

Well, it's time to fight back. And this is what Mario Gerosa/Frank Koolhaas is promoting: the Stop the SL Criminalisation campaign. His purpose is very simple, in his own words:
These days the italian press is representing SL as a bad and dark world.
I don't subscribe to this point of view. As I say in my book SL is very eclectical, art oriented and full of creative people. Don't let that a few people destroy the reputation of this world!
Let's fight the crimes in Second Life but let's also contribute to know this world better!
For this reason, I launch a campaign against the criminalization of SL and I invite all the ones who read to send me a photo of their avatar like the one I posted, taken in Imogen (227, 253, 28).
It's not only the Italian press doing this, of course. Thus his campaign might be well worth considering as a worthwhile endeavour — world-wide. All it requires is taking a picture and mentioning it to anyone who asks the infamous question: "Is it true that Second Life is a world of crime?" Which it most certainly is not.


  1. SL is the wild west, not "a world of crime" but a world where law has very little control. The wild west may have only a slightly better reputation than a world of crime, but let's face it, it's not the world of the law either.

    But do we want a "world of law"? I don't think SL should be squeaky clean, not even as clean as RL. After all, there is a demand for "Grand Theft Auto".

    Let's decide first what crimes have to be stopped in SL. Obviously, crimes that spill into RL like fraud should be stopped. It is real money after all, no matter what LL says.

    This is a different, new legal field though and it will take time to iron it out. SL is used globally and RL laws aren't global. It's a general Internet issue that has been long coming and that will eventually come to a head. Plus, we have "virtual property" now.

    Being the wild west even has its charm. It's being a growing world that has not reached its full potential yet. The people in the wild west were adventurers, some of them even outlaws, but they also built a new nation. I believe we are doing something similar in SL.

    Now, considering that this is the wild west, how about having a WANTED poster instead of the Imogen mugshot?

  2. I think the issue is making sure that at least SL is not a source of organised crime, like the press seems to show it. Put into another words, there are no organised child porn networks (which doesn't mean that there are no individuals selling child porn), there is no organised frauds and scams (although every day someone cheats someone else), there are no real money laundering schemes (although people avoid taxes), there are no places where drug dealers or terrorists sit down to plan their next setup (although hackers definitely get together to plan grid attacks), and so on.

    So it's not like covering up individual cases; it's much more assuming that SL is definitely not a lovely utopia (there are always some rotten elements here and there), but also hardly a network of organised crime...

    And of course, being in the Wild West is definitely a lot of fun :))