The SL5B Drama: Crowdsourcing Fiasco Or Devious Plan?

What and Why?

Allegedly, Linden Lab went from the “No Nipples” policy in the last year towards a “No mature communities in SL5B” this year. The claim is made by several communities that had their own exhibits rejected. People talk to each other, and soon a pattern emerged: any community that could be vaguely associated to “mature content” (which mostly means: content of a sexual nature) was excluded from SL5B. In LL’s own words (from the SL5B Wiki page):

Under the definition of PG some of the but not limited to the following will be prohibited; Nudity, this includes nipples and genitalia. Exhibits must not contain Mature content, if you are unsure of the rating of some of your content please contact a Coordinator. Ropes and Chains, graphic images or exhibits showing someone being bound will not be allowed, this also includes other content that may represent someone being bound in a sexual way.

Linden Lab claimed later that there was no “ban on specific communities”, just that all exhibits had to be strictly PG. Dusan Writer analysed these (and other) claims. The problem, of course, is that this excluded a very peaceful community, the Kid Avatars of Second Life, who just have fun using children-sized avatars and engaging in childlike activities. To make matters worse, this is one of the more active and energic communities in Second Life, one that always participated in all SL5B events. Their exhibits are usually the most peaceful you can imagine: after all, they depict children having fun playing. What could possibly be more innocent than this?

Granted, the words “child avatar” immediately trigger, in a puritan mind, the connection with ageplay and incitement to paedophilia. So someone at Linden Lab excluded them from SL. Gorean and BDSM groups were excluded shortly thereafter. And they got in touch with the volunteer organisation, which was baffled by LL’s decision.

Once it was clear that the decision was final and unappealable, the organisers understood the message perfectly: they were not in charge of SL5B any more. Linden Lab, once more, at the very end of over 11 months of planning, was taking over the project and imposing their own will. Naturally, the organisation quit in protest. Linden Lab thus took charge of the whole operation, starting with the SL5B Wiki, which now shows who really is in charge.

The “why” is not clear. By providing spaces for both Mature and PG exhibits, Linden Lab could have solved the issue neatly — nobody would be “forced” to go to the Mature sims if they didn’t want to. For the ones that “sex” is objectionable on moral or religious grounds, they could simply just stay on the PG area — something that the companies exhibiting on SL5B would certainly wish. The blog comments show that indeed the puritan US companies are all for a “pink” environment where everything “nasty” is kept out of their view.

The issue, however, seems to have escalated. By (indirectly) promoting the SL5B Festival, Linden Lab was also saying that they’re tolerant and open minded towards the mature communities in SL. Clearly some company complained; or a puritan pressure group/lobby; or the US/Californian authorities. Or it was just legal advice from their counsellors? At this stage of LL’s media exposure, they should refrain to be seen as a company with an open mind, which would give other companies the wrong idea.

These are quite complex assumptions. There were no claims, official or implied, that LL is “moving away” from the mature market, or disconnecting itself from it. But on the other hand, endorsing a SL5B with mature-friendly content, might be wrongly interpreted by the puritan media and companies. YouTube is full of sex, but Google is not promoting a “mature festival of movies”, which would be unthinkable for an US company. They allow mature content in YouTube (properly flagged), but they don’t endorse it. That allows Google to keep YouTube attractive to about a fifth of their user base without causing Google’s shares to drop.

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