Second Life News: Second Life Development Forum Covers Adult Content Changes

April 1st, 2009  |  Published in Second Life News

by Sitearm Madonna

What does Linden Lab consider to be “Adult Oriented Content” and why should SL Entrepreneurs care? This was the focus of the Adult Oriented (AO) Content Forum presented March 24th to a mixed audience of Solution Providers (SP) and Linden Lab (LL) Employees.

A survey by Madhavi Linden, who manages the SLDEV Forum Series, shows the following representations in the audience:
Solution Provider’s with:

+ Real world clients: 80%
+ In world clients: 30%
+ Adult oriented content clients: 60%

Despite suspicions that it is the corporate and educational entities who are demanding stricter controls on “adult oriented content availability” in Second Life, the speakers emphasized that it is a majority request from ALL walks of SL resident life asking – not for a full ban on adult content – but rather, DIRECTED ACCESS to adult content.

Kend explained the purpose: “Give users more control over their experience. Some residents simply don’t want to encounter adult material and activities – meaning very sexually explicit – and some residents DO want it. We are NOT trying to get rid of or reduce people’s ability to have these experiences. Instead the goal is to make experiences more predictable for residents.”

The program consists of three parts:
1. Create a part of the mainland for adult content and activities which will include providing assistance for people needing to relocate.

2.  Establish search filtering, allowing users to sort via adult search tags and restricting display based on same.
3. Establish upgraded land designations, allowing region owners to self select their status.

JP summarized, “Zoning and search filtering are the key elements.” Kend added, “We’re not talking about private access – we’re talking about what is publicly advertised and visible. Sexually explicit is likely the largest piece. The next is intensely violent activity – not simple shooting, more like beheadings and torture. The third includes photographs featuring nudity and pornography.”

Kend continued, “We will need to allow for exceptions for artistic display, educational components, and health. Some definitions are in place and are being honed with input being included.”

Listeners expressed several concerns. Awm Mars asked if this constituted a continuing trend of “too much control in SL.” JP replied, “There is a difference between AO and banking and games of chance. We are not seeking to ban anything with AO. Linden Lab has no intention of banning adult oriented content in Second Life.”

Marc Montague asked if AO standards won’t be “excessively ambiguous based on home culture.” Kend responded, “The search filtering process will apply as an objective process; not subjective. Think of those words typiclaly used to get people into a sex club or orgy rooms using a search tool. Those are generally adult terms.”

“To see the results of adult search tag results, you’re going to have to be adult validated. That part is self enforcing. If you’re running a sex business, you want people to find you using those terms.” In addition to search filtering, land designations are part of the process for directing those searching for adult oriented content to the correct locations.

Montague continued, “I would like to ask Linden Lab to make a statement that will give clear guidelines and explicit examples that everybody is able to understand about what LL perceives as on the right side or the wrong side.” He added as an example: “The UK differs from the US and YouTube movies are now banned throughout the UK by government intervention.”

JP and Kend agreed. Kend emphasized, “Yes, it’s in all of our interests to provide clear guidelines and examples.”

Questions became more specific. Will AO mainland pricing differ from non-AO mainland? No, not from Linden Lab, although the open market may be another story. Will AO search terms include other languages besides English? Yes, although the same care will be taken so that the search terms will not be too broad. Does the new AO program indicate imminent plans to combine the Teen and Main grids? No. No. And No. (At this point Madhavi made a note to plan another SLDEV Forum on “Teen Grid Plans.”)

JP emphasized, “AO controls are resident-content-preference first, age-validation second. The Teen Grid is age-validation first.”

Joja Dhara asked, “Would having a ‘red light mainland’ make the public press think less of SL as a kind of Amsterdam, i.e. think of sex first and ignore the other positive aspects of SL?” Neil Robinson added, “Are there concerns that creating a specific area for this kind of thing will have a negative impact on the brands value?”

Kend responded, “The same content in SL now will be in SL after AO. The AO designated areas may be perceived as a red light district, yes. But everyone knows this platform has broad creativity including sexual expression. So no, that’s not a concern.”

What about input on the final definitions of AO content? Kend answered, “Yes that’s what we’re doing now on a broad basis via the SL Forums and a focused basis via these SLDEV Forums and others.” JP confirmed, “Yes, and continue to send us input directly via Madhavi.”

How will enforcement be handled and does Linden Lab have the resources to work with violation reports? Enforcement will be collaborative within the community. Linden Lab has learned from gambling and age play programs, for example, that it must address reports on a case by case basis and filter the “ephemeral” from the substantive.

Kend summarized, “We have a team who understand policies and only enforce where there is really a violation. We will have to do the same here and we feel confident we have learned how to do that and can do it.”

Kend summarized key points from the discussion feedback:
1. Make sure to provide absolutely clear guidelines and go over them word by word; what is adult vs. not adult including explicit examples.
2. Be wary and aware of arbitrariness in reporting. Do not be ‘kneejerk’ in enforcement. Be ready to reinforce staff if a floodgate of reports occurs.
3. Concerns about teen grid plans and desires for more input on that.

Solution Provider expressed pleasure with the presenters for providing straight answers and their apparent willingness to listen. Montague teased, “Always happy to grill you guys!” Mars added, “It’s heartwarming!”

To learn more about the Adult Oriented Content program, see the SL Public Wiki (Adult Content Forum Transcript, the SL Blog (Upcoming Changes for Adult Content, and the SL Forum (Upcoming Changes for Adult Content: Main Forum Thread

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