Linden Lab has done a lot of dumb things over the years, but their latest move is quite possibly the dumbest! So dumb in fact, that I am basically calling it quits on Second Life.
Over the last few months, the “Terms Of Service Gestapo” has been banning a lot of long time players, with no explanation, the only reasons they give for the bans is to quote the TOS terms they apparently violated, with no evidence or incident examples for players to defend themselves.
For the average “freemium” player, a ban is nothing, just roll a new alt, but when it is a prominent business person who makes their living in Second Life merchandise, it becomes an attack on their livelihoods. That’s what happened to LisaWarmAnimations, a merchant that sells toys and animations in Second Life, as the person behind the business depends on the income to house and feed a family.
Some detective work on players part seems to indicate that she was swept up in a ban raid relating to “bestiality play”, where players have pretend sex with pretend animals. Apparently this is frowned upon in certain countries where Linden Lab wants to do business, so a bunch of merchants that sell that kind of stuff got the ban hammer with no warning or explanation. LisaWarmAnimations was innocent in this sweep as she only rents to a vendor of this material, and has since been able to get her account and store back.
Personally, I have a problem with the whole thing. I have zero interest in virtual kink, but as long as it is kept in “Adult” regions, I don’t have a problem with it. People like to live out their fantasies virtually that they would never do for real. That is the whole point of “video games” in general: do stuff you would never do in real life. Better to do it virtually in a safe environment, than for real. And it does make a real difference.
So the whole idea of banning for this stuff screams “censorship”, so I am already hot over what seem to be random bannings over random crap people find offensive.
Skills Hak and INSILICO
But, here is the incident that has me boiling over with hatred. Another prominent Second Lifer Skills Hak got banned. The thing is, this SLer is the owner and creator of the best sim in Second Life: INSILICO, a dark cyberpunk urban world that is a sight to behold.
Or at least it was. It is now closed, possibly for good. Skills Hak got her ban overturned for a few days then reinstated apparently permanently, and no one can figure out why, including Skills herself.
Here is the official statement:
It has come to our attention that you have engaged in activities in violation of the Linden Lab Terms of Service (the “Terms”) and Second Life Community Standards, including but not limited to:
· Section 6.1 of the Terms, which states that “[y]ou will not post or transmit prohibited Content, including any Content that is illegal, harassing or violates any person’s rights”;
· Section 6.1(iv) of the Terms, which states that you agree you will not “[p]ost, display, or transmit Content (including any communication(s) with employees of Linden Lab) that is harmful, threatening or harassing, defamatory, libelous, false, inaccurate, misleading, or invades another person’s privacy”; and
· Section 4 (Disclosure) of the Community Standards, which states that “[r]esidents are entitled to a reasonable level of privacy with regard to their Second Life experience. Sharing personal information about your fellow Residents without their consent — including gender, religion, age, marital status, race, sexual preference, alternate account names, and real-world location beyond what is provided by them in their Resident profile — is not allowed. Remotely monitoring conversations in Second Life, posting conversation logs, or sharing conversation logs without the participants’ consent are all prohibited.”
Pursuant to Section 5.2 of the Terms, “Linden Lab may suspend or terminate your Account if you violate this Agreement, along with any or all other Accounts held by you or otherwise related to you. . . . Upon termination of your Accounts, this Agreement between us will be automatically terminated and you may not re-subscribe or return to the Service through other or future Accounts you or others may set up.”
Due to your severe and repeated violations of the Terms and Community Standards, Linden Lab has terminated your access to the Second Life virtual world. This termination applies to all Second Life accounts associated with you, including your primary, alternate, and household accounts. To reiterate, you may not return to Second Life on any account, new or existing.
No actual incidents were named, no due process is possible. All we have is a vague letter to parse that basically tells us nothing.
In Skills words:
So basically LL seized my accounts, several of which are premium members that had inventory worth thousands of USD, the money in my account, my creations and my regions i paid 200k USD for in tier over the years. I tried to appeal the ban once but only got the usual “Thanks for your feedback. You’re still banned, asshole.” response. The whole appeal thing is a joke anyways, how am i supposed to appeal if i don’t even know the reason for my ban, they are not interested in my side of the story that could potentially clear up the situation.
I’ve always tried to make SL better for the people, be it through making the software better or by designing experiences the way SL should look and feel like, even on my alts i somehow always ended up being a sim owner, providing themed space to people and building communities.
She has more to say in this Tumblr post: http://skills.tumblr.com/post/141699124267/byeeee
Now it should be noted that Skills has not been an angel during her 8 year tenure in SL, There are some ugly moments in SL past in which she was an accomplice, and Skills has been banned before because of them.
That’s all ancient history though. Is Linden Lab petty enough to ban someone for events that happened years ago? Considering the other people who also got recently banned, they might be.
Unlike the bans mentioned above, this has nothing to do with virtual sex or censorship, nor does it have anything to do with unpaid bills. The mystery mixed with the prominence of this ban has a lot of players worried.
INSILICO was a work of art, a showplace for Second Life that even appeared on the back of business cards of Linden Lab employees. It inspired the creation of large online communities and groups with thousands of members, and rent paying virtual apartment dwellers and shop keepers, now who have no place to call home.
My take on all this
This is quite possibly the dumbest thing I have ever heard LL do in my 13 years of following the Second Life community. It simply does not make sense on any level.
Why would any business ban one of its biggest customers with no explanation? Why would you shut down one of the most popular and prominent regions in the community, one that even has its own sub communities?
No business in their right mind would ban a customer who has made them hundreds of thousands of dollars and tons of free promotion without a very good reason and without explanation.
To treat someone as prominent as Skills like dog shit is the kind of incident that should be damning of the entire company.
And why this sudden interest in banning players? Are they trying to appease some big pocket VC who wants them to “clean up” Second Life before they invest more money? Are they being blocked from doing business in some countries (maybe China?) because of their reputation that they are trying to clean up?
The explanation for LL’s lack of candor is obvious: They don’t want a multi million dollar class action lawsuit.
But such draconian actions by LL NEED to have consequences. I want this to serve as an object lesson to ANYONE who is considering investing in Project Sansar or Second Life that Linden Lab cannot be trusted to play fair.
I really don’t give a damn if I only know one side of the story. I would love to hear the other side, the Linden Lab side. It is either a very good explanation that deserves to be heard, or it is a story of complete incompetence on their part that deserves to be heard even more.
Screw it, I’m done!
As an early premium adapter, I make enough L-bucks that I can have my tiny 512m land for free until Second Life finally closes its doors, so I won’t be giving that up, but I won’t be investing in it or blogging about it anymore. I’m removing the link from my home page.
The truth is I haven’t done much there since 2011 anyways, and recently got rid of most of my Second Life travelogues from this blog. One of them featured INSILICO, but like most of my favorite places, it’s gone now.
UPDATE October 2016:
Ownership of Insilico was moved to new owners to keep it going, but that plan failed to keep it up very long. It will disappear in November.