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« There's No 3-D Web, Just 3-D Mediated Reality | Main | It's Time to Regulate Bots »

May 24, 2008


Danton Sideways

What a complicated subject, Prokofy. To take just the issue of free speech for neo-nazis, for example, what is tolerated in the United States is illegal in Europe. Having lived under nazi domination, the German and the French see a real and present danger in letting neo-nazis organize and express themselves, and such groups may be forbidden by law. The Second Life activists who drove the French Front National off of the grid seem to have shared a perspective of the European type, whereas I believe that you felt that even right-wing extremists are entitled to free speech.

Then there is the question of moderation of internet discussions. In a famous post about "the group," Clay Shirky retells the story of how the early Communitree forum had to be shut down because it was overun with aggressive adolescent males who reveled in troublemaking – the original griefers, as it were. There is now widespread acceptance of the idea that the proper response to blatant troublemakers – so-called trolls – is moderation. You question the use of the word troll, since it gets turned from its original meaning, and used as an excuse to block people like yourself, who are only engaging in vigorous debate. But griefing does need to be moderated, so clearly moderation is justified in at least some cases.

Then there is the question of terms of service and the right to exercise control over one's own commercial or private activities. It seems for instance necessary to guaranty anyone's freedom to delete whatever comments they want from their own blog. I would thus agree with your suggestion that we can only encourage a culture of tolerance, but not legislate in this domain.

I would also suggest that the odious adage "if you don't like it you can leave it" can be turned against those who use it as an excuse for poor service levels. If the service is too poor the solution MAY BE to leave. In the case of Second Life, for example, the new grids based on OpenSim may soon be a real alternative – see my blog post on the subject here: Service and terms of service should be seen as elements of value in competing offers on an open market. The consumer is free to choose the provider that gives the best service and terms of service – and enforcement thereof - for an equivalent cost.

Prokofy Neva

Yes, if you are to allow the First Amendment to be fulfilled, even odious speech of the right-wing neo-Nazi has to be tolerated, along with the violent extremist communist or Islamicist. And the belief is that good speech will drive out bad, and if you suppress bad speech you will not persuade those adopting these extremist positions but only harden them.

I've never seen a country successfully battle neo-Nazis or extreme Bolsheviks or jihadists by having speech codes that punished people with jail time.

People become very confused about the need to tolerate speech and not punish it by criminal sanctions, and something else, which is to create a liberal public space where you condemn extremism. People often confuse the condemnation of something like BDSM or Gor as refusal to allow it to exist.

I quite understand that all sorts of communities get started that want to control speech. They have all kinds of ideas how to do this. But I can only keep asking the question: ok, that's nice, you made a nice church picnic, now...where will the First Amendment take place? Who will see to it that it has meaning and effect, if you will not?

I didn't say we shouldn't legislate. In fact, I think we need to move to chip away at the arbitrary and abusive TOS that everywhere prevails. There's no absolute notion that just because it's a private company and a private space that it gets to behave in abusive, arbitrary, and oppressive fashion. I've cited many times the difference between "Boy Scouts of America" and "Mall of America".

I don't think Twitter should be policing speech and making judgements about abusive except possibly the most extreme and violent cases. The cases that have been served up to them so far are lame and don't rise to the test.

I think if a case doesn't rise to the test of RL law, then a service shouldn't be removing it, either!

I think the FCC, if it is going to get all mushy about net congestion and pushed around by the ACLU and Lawrence Lessig into thinking "OMG our rights are being abused!" should look not at bittorrent hogs and ensuring them the right to eat all the bandwidth, but should cast deeper and wider and look at abusive TOS.

I don't believe in forced migration policies like "if you don't like it you can leave". I think every society should figure out how to tolerate minorities but also restrain griefers without making them leave. So often the people told to leave aren't griefers and haven't done anything wrong but step on some prima dona's toe.

OpenSim offers nothing of the kind. The people organizing these things aren't trust worthy and have a history of being arbitrary themselves, worse than the Lab.

Danton Sideways

For me there is a choice between trying to improve the Second Life society, struggling against Linden Lab's known reluctance to take the responsibility for "making a country," or trying to create an alternative.

In the first case I think it would be necessary to create some kind of in-world parliament, in order to have in-world democracy, as we discussed in the transcript I posted on my blog. But I personally am having a hell of a time just raising interest in a new small political party that I am trying to create within the Confederatin of Democratic Sims, let alone trying to mobilize a parliament on the level of the Second Life grid.

In the second case, my point is that the OpenSim software will soon reach a level where it can be used to create various viable alternatives to Second Life. Perhaps you distrust the people currently setting up these grids, but the software is available to anyone. Hence it would be feasible to set up a new grid that would be conceived as a democracy from that start. I proposed organizing a grid as a cooperative, which is too "socialist" for your taste. But there are other possible solutions. Having viable competitors would oblige Second Life to improve its management of the in-world society in order to keep its customers.

Prokofy Neva


It's touchingly -- no, dangerously -- naive to go on assuming the Lindens are interested in making a society. They aren't. They will go on rewarding their friends and sticking it to their enemies, without any rule of law. That's not going to change. Bay City should show you that -- look who is getting paid there.

The idea that you'll obtain freedom on open sims somewhere is also an illusion. OpenSim is run by one company, which then leases to others -- it's like the Linden model. You run software on your own sim -- but you still require a log-on from them. They can arbitrarily withhold this at any time for any reason or no reason.

Desmond Shang

From a George Bernard Shaw play...

PICKERING: Have you no morals, man?

DOOLITTLE: Can't afford them, Governor.

* * * * *

The issue with first amendment rights in most cases, is that very few people are willing to put dollars behind defending it.

I have clearly posted rights on my grid regions, but they are only so good as I can afford.

Eventually, if someone was causing so much trouble with their speech as to put my regions out of business, I would have two choices:

a) limit the speech

b) go out of business (same effect)

For service providers there are similar issues. Perhaps they would lose access to the European market, perhaps they would become associated in a marketing sense with the hated fringe groups, rather than first amendment ideals.

* * * * *

I also think the inworld democracy experiments (at present time) will make free speech even *harder* to obtain at the moment.

The factions, which are more properly labeled cliques as they can and do excommunicate members, struggle over control of the agenda of the experiment. It's all about controlling the topic, even at times to the point of limiting what may even be brought up.

I wouldn't look to this culture or environment to expand my rights - you are still better off even in corporate-run regions. Those are already going to follow through on agenda X, Y and Z without you - so you can talk your silly head off and they will pretty much not mind or care.

I'm glad there is no 'grid parliament' - but if ever there was one, they would find out precisely how independent some places can be. I know of two and a half million square meters at least, where any so-called grid parliament member would be recognised as a griefer and dealt with accordingly.

Danton Sideways

Prokofy - You say that OpenSim is run by one company, which then requires the member sims to log on to their grid. My impression is that OpenSim is a FREE server software package, which can be used by anyone to run either one sim or a whole grid. When someone uses OpenSim to create a grid, they then require member sims to log on and to follow some sort of group rules or terms of service. But any group has rules. Why is having rules in an OpenSim grid any more a limitation to freedom than it is for any other type of group?

Desmond - If you look again at the post on my blog called "Rabble Dousing," you will see that the proposal was to create a parliament only among those who were WILLING to participate. Those landowners who dislike or distrust democracy for various reasons - as you seem to do - would have all freedom to abstain. But if it came to that, and the Caledonians perceived that their wise ruler was strongly opposed to accepting democratic process, the prestige of the Steampunk paradise might take a blow.

Smoke Wijaya

Only meaningfull gridwide democratic system in my opinion is LL (or any gridoperator) becoming a cooperative with a fully decentralised, direct democratic, structure.

Desmond Shang

Quoting Danton,

>>"But if it came to that, and the Caledonians perceived that their wise ruler was strongly opposed to accepting democratic process, the prestige of the Steampunk paradise might take a blow."

You should really talk to the residents - if anything, it's just not that way. Which is the understatement of the year.

I'm the land guy. I don't 'rule' anybody. Instead, what I offer is protection from gangs and cliques who would vote for crazy nonsense and have carte blanche to mess with their neighbours via 'majority' vote. There are a few rules in Caledon - our theme, no adfarming, stuff like that - but never is any nasty clique going to take control of the Caledon master plan and ruin it.

Democracy's great for real life. But on the grid? You get the CDS, which still really isn't a democracy at all. It's just the estate owner letting the group do whatever it likes to itself.

I don't believe these false democracies hold up in a crisis. Instead, you get something worse than a model that knows it isn't democratic from the get-go. So for all the burden and overhead you get... nothing much, when push comes to shove or anything really needs to get done.

Caledon tier is over 81,000 USD annually - you bet there is a tight feedback between me and the residents or I'd be history overnight.

Yes, it's a corporate model, but I'd wager I'm listening to what people want waaaay more than the RA or Scientific Counsel or (insert CDS acronym) ever bothers to do.

Prokofy Neva

Cooperatives and "direct democracy" sound awfully democratic and, uh, direct, don't they? But they aren't, really. Everybody knows what a cooperative board is like in New York City running apartment buildings (arbitrary and despotic). Have you ever tried running a vegetable co-op with a bunch of hippies? These systems are often untroubled by any notion of "rule of law" and substitute for it "rule of the commune" or group -- collectivism, which is, of course, the problem of communism and why it doesn't work -- and usually becomes the opposite of what it seeks.

"Direct democracy" can be seen in action in places like the PJIRA -- vote yes, early and often on your alts, and delete other people's content. "Direct" is as "direct" does -- it is often run by a cabal of tekkies who code it to do their will.

There's also always the problem of the demos, as much as you might be for advocating democracy. What if your demos is Hamas? In our day, the Algerian problem (democracy for this one last election in which I win and you lose and I stay in power for ever) and the Hamas problem have spelled out in spades the demos problem (the King's lamet, "We need a new people").

What if the demos is not liberal? For example, in New York State, despite having boatloads of liberals, including your faithful correspondent, the death penalty is in effect. How can that be, when all these Hillary voters and latte drinkers are seemingly in power, in the media, getting elected? Well, I guess they haven't persuaded the apple farmers upstate or the rustbelt (Buffalo) or downsize belt (Xerox, Kodak). Or whatever. I'm not sure of the dynamics -- but sometimes, minorities prevail with liberal opinion in representative democracy that many not represent the broader public on every single issue, but it's generally a good thing. For example, if you put the right to abortion to a direct vote in America, you might well lose, yet it is the law of the land. Law created by representative democracy is a good thing, it prevents mob rule.

Desmond's $81,000 benign dictatorship is probably as good as it gets -- let me suggest that when your customers pay you $25 at a crack, of which you keep $12, let's say, you can afford to be more benign than when you have a lot of customers paying you $2.19 of which you keep 50 cents lol.

I think Desmond sums the problem of SL ownership and politics when he writes "You get the CDS, which still really isn't a democracy at all. It's just the estate owner letting the group do whatever it likes to itself". That's why I often think that if you really want to play government and democracy on the grid, you need to do it not on a private island, but with, say, 32 people each willing to pay the Lindens tier that they group to get the group discount. That works out to be more expensive land in the end, but it enables each person to fully feel the burden of ownership and payment, and creates an incentive for cooperation, as anyone can pull out at any time -- you have to develop other glues to keep people than just offering them a cheap rental as a benign dictator.

I recently visited Chilbo and checked it out -- that's Fleep Tuque's benign dictatorship she runs with one other person. It has about 40 seemingly happy customers, this customer-service statelet on the mainland. I'm sure I'm boiling it down way too much by saying that it wasn't for me, because I walked around, having to read a poster educating me about AIDS every few feet, embalmed in the sense that I was stuck in downtown Denver. You know that sort of New Age commercial? The mall where they have the steel and glass but somehow there's something about solar energy somewhere? lol

There was a bit of an elaborate deal for how to have land there, and build sort of out of sight so as to keep the downtown uncluttered and solar-energy filled, if you will. I think it's probably also as good a model as it gets for the mainland -- a mixture of residences and businesses, zoning, but not in some draconian sense, and effort to try to spread some order over a few sims and create an interesting and fun life for people online. I personally would find it oppressive -- but then, Desmond's ladies' tea steampunk is oppressive to me, too. I like the feeling of being in what one somewhat disgruntled patron described as a "Texas fishing camp" that Ravenglass Rentals can give you lol, i.e. freedom to be a bit amateurish and tacky if you will, although not descending to the rich depth of tacky that the new Nerdville is aspiring to (I'd love to rent there, but I might bring property values down) -- but also to have some nice themed/zoned areas like the Celtic tower by Foolish Frost in Ravenglass or cliff dwellings in Free Tibet.

I like to think that the freedom I give Ravenglass Rentals that is most precious to the tenants is: freedom from each other.

As for free speech, in nearly four years, I've only had about one or two people I had to evict for actual speech crimes, as distinct from crimes against property like overprimming or persons, like shooting, orbiting, etc. I can think of just those very few occasions when someone went beserk in the group or on a sim screaming sexual harassment and racism -- it's not as common as you might think. That is, if somebody calls somebody else a "cunt," they will not be indulged by me in expulsion of their neighbour because they can put on mute or ban. I'm for going further even than the Twitter devs go on this.

If they did this repeatedly inside the group, and flew around harassing an ex girlfriend endlessly with sexist speech, she would likely ban them, and I'd likely not let them rent again. Again, this is extremely rare, that a paying tenant locks out an ex, and I then have to figure out what to do with that ex who still wants to rent. Usually they have the sense to rent on another sim from me but if they don't, I have to chose.

In the end, your democracy and your free speech in these settings are tethered by business concerns. Do I lose this paying customer who looks to be longer term? Or do I lose that paying customer who was late on payments, overprimmed, and behaved like a dick? In running a democracy as an abstract governance principle, I'd have to have wider tolerance for the dick, but in a business, I can cut loose ends. And that's the scary prospect for life online -- there is always some no-nonsense busy-body type who comes along and says he knows how to define all the assholes, where they can go, and how to live free of assholes. Whenever I see one of those types, I know the problem of assholery has already been localized.

Prokofy Neva

I meant to say -- the death penalty law is on the books -- the court has a moratorium, there hasn't been an execution since the 1970s I believe, but it's still there, and hasn't been overturned.

Desmond Shang

Just for the record, in no way am I making anything near 50% returns on land.

When fully occupied, percentage returns are in the mid 30's for full regions, and in the toilet for void regions. Those were added mainly for wildlands than profit.

Returns below 30% are risky, insofar as when (not if, when) disaster or service issues strike the grid, you've got little padding or recourse before you are just plain 'in trouble'.

I know some operate on a lot leaner margins, but a lot of those people also end up in trouble and fold on their residents, too.

Maklin Deckard

"I'm glad there is no 'grid parliament' - but if ever there was one, they would find out precisely how independent some places can be. I know of two and a half million square meters at least, where any so-called grid parliament member would be recognised as a griefer and dealt with accordingly." - Desmond Shang

Thank you, Governor. Thes CDF types scare the hell out of me at times. I live in Caledon, my 'laws' come from Desmond, who I know and trust, not some faceless group with designs on a parliment...of course with them as the leadership.

"Those landowners who dislike or distrust democracy for various reasons - as you seem to do - would have all freedom to abstain. But if it came to that, and the Caledonians perceived that their wise ruler was strongly opposed to accepting democratic process, the prestige of the Steampunk paradise might take a blow." - Danton Sideways

And here is where Danton's self-promotion in the name of democracy fails. First, I've seen enough nasty cases RL where Democracy was used to cover 'tyranny of the majority'...a classic example being the laws on Eminent Domain. I'd rather not have it in my second life.

Second, for me its not a distrust of democracy, but a distrust of folks that self-appoint as harbingers of democracy (along with their friends). I'd be more keen on it ingame if EVERY current members of the CDS resigned and became a normal citizen FOREVER the day it went live in SL. No creating offices for oneself, sir.

Third and last, your quote 'and the Caledonians perceived that their wise ruler was strongly opposed to accepting democratic process, the prestige of the Steampunk paradise might take a blow.'. Sir, you must be daft, or take the view that steampunk only covers TECH. Unfortunately for your premise, there is a STRONG line of victorian in there for many of us in the genre. And as victorians, 'God save the, Governor!'...we want, along with our steamtech, the stability of the olden times...and in that, we have our governor, not the CDS or 'play democracy'.

The only true rule in SL, to avoid mob rule, would be the Lindens themselves, or Benevolent Empires such as Caledon, that we VOLUNTARILY adhere to. In effect, I shall serve our sim-state and its governor (and my friend), but sir, I shall not bend a knee to the will a distant parliment of your making. I believe I speak for most Caledonians in this. :)

(sorry, Prokofy, I couldn't resist dropping into play jingoism when dealing with the play democracy of the CDS. I did not mean to derail your posting)

Danton Sideways

As I understand, there is a long history of diplomatic relations between CDS and Caledon, interrupted apparently at one time by a war - or was it a mock war? Then there was the day Desmond deliberately provoked CDS by planting a one-prim Caledonian object somewhere in CDS, hoping to serve as a test case for the developing CDS legislation. The provocation turned short because he was given diplomatic immunity. So these two competing models for in-world government are actually rather chummy.

Would democracy be worth anything if it were forced on unwilling citizens? It is a flawed system, as everyone agrees. But it still has its fanboyz, like myself, who feel it is too much of a good thing to be reserved only for Real Life.

Desmond Shang

There was to be a war, once, but Sudane and I got talking and we decided on having tea instead.

As for Diplomatic Immunity - is that why I never got my parking ticket? And here I thought I had it all worked out! I was going to frame the summons to the CDS court on my wall in Victoria City, but nooo... I was denied. Is there no justice?

I was hoping to be put on trial in Neufreistadt, with Prok as my defence lawyer, ideally. (And pro bono, even more ideally.) With the evidence of the alleged crime against the august CDS splashed all over the internet, and some rather incriminating statements I'd made, it might be a tough case. Ah well. What a shame that won't happen!

Foiled again. *gnashes teeth*

But there's always a next time...

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