A few hours after pondering/blogging about what sort of news stories would be found in Second Life I found myself in a pub testing the quality of their cider, and what should appear on the TV screen but a story about Second Life! Unfortunately, as with most news stories, it was about the seedier side of life. In this case what was described as a “virtual paedophile ring“.
It is unfortunate that it is always the worst aspects of new technologies that gain the most media attention, and difficult to see what Second Life can do about it. Whilst the news article indicates that people are engaging in some rather sick fantasies, whilst contained within a virtual world are they doing anything illegal? If not it seems hard for Second Life to do anything, it is stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they start to dictate what is and is not acceptable behaviour in Second Life where do they stop? On the other hand, if they do nothing it will seem as though they are condoning the sick practices, and will harm their image amongst the public at large (some of whom will never have heard of Second Life before).
It would be nice to see the Second Life users do something about these groups, turning up on mass and disrupting the groups. Unfortunately the groups would then end up building secure members-only areas. At which point I would like to see Second Lifers and some good hackers turn up to disrupt these places. Successful self-governance of this situation would save Second Life from having to dictate what groups are acceptible, and also save the image of the Second Life user.