Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rights of Avatars

Somebody suggested that I write something about giving rights to SecondLife avatars to defend themselves against the broken Abuse Report system.

A number of people have written and talked about this for years.  Most notable (or at least most vocal) is probably the Second Life Liberation Army.

Phillip himself has commented in the past that he'd like to find an alternative to the system in place.  I don't blame him.  Trying to manage disputes between users must be a huge pain in the collective Linden behind.

The system is clearly broken.  People are pulled off the grid for being under age when they're already age verified and it takes weeks and months to straighten it out.  I know of one woman who was hardware banned for copy bot when she didn't even know what it was.

Some sort of system where users could review these charges and have some sort of "trial" (for lack of a better term) to determine whether the person should lose their account or not seems like a better alternative.

It would mean users would have to occasionally perform jury duty, but that's probably doable.

Where the system might break down is all the "evidence" for such "trials" would have to come from Linden Labs.  Message logs, inventories, event logs etc. are all in their possession and there would be not only some cost involved in providing them to user tribunals, but probably also some liability too.

I know Universities sometimes face this problem with their Honor Codes, where people, unwilling to accept the verdict of the Honor Code committee, end up suing the University anyway. 

The same would probably happen with Linden Labs, because whatever the User Tribunal came up with, the company is still responsible for what happens in SecondLife.  Linden Labs would probably require some way to indemnify themselves from the actions of the tribunal, and that would be complicated, and probably not fool-proof.

Most of these obstacles can be overcome by a careful re-wording of the terms of service, basically contractually binding us to the actions of the users tribunal.

Then comes in the problem of how to select and manage judges and jurors.  How can you hold a fair election when some people have twenty or thirty alt accounts?  Some of the more organized griefer groups like W-Hat or Woodbury would certainly find ways to rig elections and get their candidates elected.

To have any sort of fair election process, we'd have to figure out a way to ensure a one person/one vote system which would be pretty complicated given the current structure of the internet.  It would almost certainly involve getting rid of free accounts, or at least making them ineligible to vote or serve on juries.  The Lindens could appoint judges and juries, but that kind of puts us back at square one.

I would love to see some sort of user reviewed system of justice in Second Life, but the road from here to there will be a long one and it would involve changing the very nature of how avatars are created and maintained on the grid.  For one thing, it would probably involve the end of people having alternate accounts, or at least giving alternate accounts no rights or ability to participate in the system, while still holding people accountable for what they do on alternate accounts.

Some communities in SecondLife are already experimenting with these sorts of things to settle disputes within their communities.  While these are worthy efforts, the system breaks down when somebody decides not to accept the verdict of the community and files abuse reports against the judge, jury and the other parties.

As the metaverse grows and evolves, something like this probably will develop, but it's a long way off and who knows Linden Labs will still exist by the time we figure out how to accomplish it.

1 comment:

  1. Boyd certainly you and I understand that any first step in problem resolution involves accepting there is a problem.

    I've never worked in a business situation where I didn't know and have access to the "boss".
    While so often I see in print that "Prince Phillip" says such and seems that no one below him follows through.

    Too many chiefs and no one answers to anyone else?

    Darnit..I do wish I had a suggestion to put forth.


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