One new thing I discovered in this roundtable is that everyone already knows Second Life is where it’s at for sexual play in an online environment…. Second Life was continually credited with holding the cutting edge on adult content. One of the recurring themes in producing adult content in games is appropriate diversity, storytelling, and finding what turns people on. I believe that Second Life already has the diversity, and I invite residents to think of clever new ways to develop roles for people to play in the context in Second Life to provide a story and something hot.
Depictions of child pornography in Second Life of which we have been informed have been exceedingly rare.
In March 2009, Linden Lab announced a highly controversial policy regarding personal behavior in Second Life. It consisted of:
- Creating a new and confusing maturity rating ‘Adult’ (roughly equivalent to NC-17) on top of the existing maturity ratings of PG (no sexual behavior or content) and Mature (any sexual behavior and/or content).
- Creating a new continent (Zindra) with an ‘Adult’ rating and forcing anyone deemed to portray ‘Adult’ behavior and/or content to move to Zindra.
- Creating search and filtering criteria based on an arbitrary definition of ‘Adult’.
Ever since Second Life was created in 2002, access to the Main Grid was restricted to 18+ (legal age and the highest film rating in most countries). In other words, the new ‘Adult’ rating was meaningless compared to the higher restriction of accessing the Main Grid at all. So, what were the grounds on which this major policy change were based?
Based on our research, we estimate that around 2-4% of content on the mainland would be considered Adult according to our current thinking on defining that. For all of Second Life, our content research shows it is around 5%.
With the benefit of hindsight, it seems the true reason for the policy change – representing a complete reversal of the attitudes of March 2006 – was a covert strategy to bring children onto the Main Grid. In June 2006, Linden Lab enabled legally underage players to access the Main Grid via free, anonymous accounts. Since then, Linden Lab has eliminated all controls and restrictions on these anonymous accounts, yet when questioned, Linden Lab always denied planning to bring teens onto the Main Grid. Here is the now-famous exchange between Tali Rosca and Blondin Linden reported on 18 March 2009 in the SL Forum (abridged below):
[16:07] Tali Rosca: Ok, a topic which comes up every so often during the discussions: Opening SL to all ages? Some Linden say there are no such plans, yet Philip is on record saying he wants it. How does that jive?
[16:08] Blondin Linden: ….It’s staying where it is
[16:09] Tali Rosca: No. But are there plans to allow teens on the main grid? (Irrespective of keeping the teen grid alive as-is, as a protected sandbox)
[16:10] Blondin Linden: NO
[16:10] Blondin Linden: LET ME SAY THAT 2X – NO