Game talkPaternalistic or libertine?

 Posted by (Visited 10328 times)  Game talk
Apr 102007
 

So China has set up time limits for MMOs. I think this is actually the final implementation of the plan they announced previously, but whatever. People’s Daily Online reports that under-18 players will only be allowed to play for 3 hours a day at full XP rates, with declining XP gain thereafter until at 5 hours there’s no advancement at all. After five hours, you’ll get spam warnings every quarter hour telling you to go log off because it’s unhealthy for you to keep playing. And games not compliant by July 16th will simply be shut down.

In order to enforce this, they are requiring underage players to register with real names and identity card numbers. And this is where the real rub is: the issue of anonymity, rather than the issue of time spent.

To me, this echoes to some degree the issues raised in the recent Tim O’Reilly article calling for a blogger code of conduct, which has been criticized for its reliance on, effectively, open identity practices. As Cory Doctorow said on BoingBoing today,

I was very uncomfortable with Tim’s draft, as it seemed to preclude real anonymity and invite censorship.

The tension between the wild frontier sorts of Netizens, who tend to rely on self-policed environments, and the forces of “law and order” so to speak, continues to grow. A fair amount of the conflict within SL over casinos, for example, is driven by tensions between different ideological approaches — one group says that ageplay or casinos, or whatever, harms no one, so why not permit it; another says it’s illegal or at least immoral, and wants it shut down. There are those who wish real life IP enforcement, and those who don’t. Those who want total accountability for actions and those who don’t. And of course, accountability is largely tied to real-life identity.

There has been a lot of “virtual world exceptionalism” over the years, arguing that these spaces are special in a variety of ways. Among those unique characteristics are the fact that the power of pseudonymity permits a much wider array of behaviors and perhaps self-discovery than we might get otherwise (much of the premise of Bartle’s Designing Virtual Worlds rests on the notion that people explore aspects of self, for example). Another factor is the oft-cited point that as many of these worlds are games, there’s a wide array of notably antisocial activities that go on in them that are perfectly acceptable within the game construct — some have suggested, for example, that the avatar rights document is flawed becaus eit does not take into account the notion of psychological experimentation on users.

One of the commonest counters to this argument is the idea that the worlds reside on servers, and the servers reside in a jurisdiction, and therefore whatever the laws of the jurisdiction are, so go the rules of the environment. While one can easily foresee a time when figuring out what server a world resides on is hard-to-impossible, thanks to distributed world networks, for the meantime this is a reasonable approach. And this means that any exceptionalism must actually be carved out of prevailing law and practices, via advocacy and policymaking.

None of this matters much in China, needless to say, where the government is already firmly on the paternalistic side. But the fact is that the more we vigorously defend libertine behavior as exemplars of the sorts of freedoms we want in virtual spaces, the less likely we are to get said freedoms in today’s climate. It’s a lot harder to make the case for freedom of expression and anonymity in the wake of its use for death threats, it’s a lot harder to make the case of freedom to create unregulated virtual currencies when they are used for gambling, and it’s a lot harder to argue for unverified identities when it’s used to simulate pedophilia.

In the case of Second Life, what we saw was also a pushing off of the issue onto local jurisdictions, and a shift towards requiring a greater sense of real-world identity. As Robin Harper posted in the Linden blog,

We plan to implement features that will enable Residents to optionally confirm aspects of each other’s identity, including age and jurisdictions. Hopefully, these features will help Residents as they conform to their own local laws.

Of course, the one provider who clearly does have that ability right now is the operator of the Grid itself: Linden. The fact that they do not intend to do this policing themselves is of a piece with their desire to be infrastructure as opposed to content provider. Instead, they are planning on opening some degree of transparency on the platform itself, effectively creating a verifiable identity system for the Grid. With that step, the libertarian underpinnings of SL as a Net frontier slip a little further away.

It is this context that results in thread responses like these:

“Your World, Your Imagination..”

What a load of crockery!

please edit to.. “Our world, you stfu and pay your monthly fees, we pwm you”

Freedom of speach will be the next thing @ 24

If governments limit this. I will be sad. There is no place untouchable by greed and arbitrary placement of authority.

BLUE LAWS theres a blast from the past.
Have not seen that since the 70’s in Texas

this is a very slippery slope. I have no love for pedophiles or anything but first ageplay, then casinos, then gorean, then escorts, then something else and something else and etc etc etc.
“With the first link, a chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.” – Jean-Luc Picard

But of course, blue laws are alive and well all over the world, and show no signs of going away, perhaps ever. In other terminology, they are known as taboos, and they are enforced by law in many countries and frankly, for many reasons.

It is particularly now, when taboos are most under assault from the proliferation of voices and sites, that the cultural reaction is most likely to be severe. Pity the operator of a children’s MMO who does not give lip service to protecting the children, for example, and simply responds that it’s the parents’ job. Networked technologies give far greater power to monitor, curtail, and for that matter exploit individuals. Some part of us demands that these powers be used for our well-being. One of the other commenters in that same thread on the Linden blog plaintively said “Live and let live. Is it really that hard?” And the answer, for better or worse is “yes, yes it is, because we are social animals.”

There is some middle ground here. Societies do not exist without both some degree of societal self-awareness and self-preservation — and without some degree of liberty. Both are essential human urges. The challenge for virtual worlds going forward — indeed, for Internet social media in general — is how to walk that line. There are going to be many more steps taken like the time limits in China, the real-world identity restrictions in South Korea, and the Linden measures. And for each one, we should take care to have the debate not in terms of the red-herring axis of paternalism and libertinism, but instead of the human axis: the scale from encouraging growth and exploration, to making sure that an individual’s actions do not harm others directly or indirectly.

  42 Responses to “Paternalistic or libertine?”

  1. (Feedster on: second life) 04/11 08:14 Speaking at Web 2.0 Expo (Feedster on: second life) 04/11 08:10 Millionaire News April 10, 2007 7:10 pm (Feedster on: second life) 04/11 08:07 Paternalistic or libertine? (Feedster on: second life) 04/11 08:04 Second life flooded (Feedster on: second life) 04/11 07:52 Wanted :: RE: NEED A CURRENCY CONVERTER SCRIPT/Device (Feedster on: secondlife) 04/11 07:50

  2. in a TOS/EULA that prohibited people from creating software to interact with Windows (without, say, paying them a license fee first) I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it’d be hard to find many internet users who would be backing MS. Raph points out that the Chinese limits on game play time go into effect this week. None of this matters much in China, needless to say, where the government is already firmly on the paternalistic side. But the fact is that the more we vigorously defend libertine behavior as exemplars of the sorts of freedoms we want in virtual

  3. I was very uncomfortable with Tim’s draft, as it seemed to preclude real anonymity and invite censorship.

    Is being responsible for the expression of your thoughts an act of censorship? I don’t think so. I’ve always thought that if you express a thought, controversial or not, you should have the cajones to hold yourself accountable—to stand by your word. Anonymity, which does not have anything to do with censorship, exists as crutch for behavior that would not normally be exhibited or even accepted in the public and private squares. Anonymity works as a crutch because anonymity appears to remove consequences from the game. Anonymity is effectively a noclip cheat that when used in MMORL has drastic consequences on the balance and harmony necessary to a well-functioning society.

  4. I suspect you say that only because you have never lived under a regime where expressing your opinion would get you shot. In many parts of the world, free expression under your own name can get you killed, locked up for life, and so on. These issues, particularly as relates to the Internet, are not that simple.

    Even in a free speech society like ours, there’s plenty of cases where anonymity permits speech that otherwise would not occur: journalistic sources, whistleblowing, and so on. Not to mention numerous forms of behavior that are legal but perhaps socially risky to express — think GLBT chatrooms in homophobic areas, religious expression in locales where certain religions are frowned upon, political opinions, and so on.

    I really don’t think it’s as cut and dried as “you should have the cojones.”

  5. This story reminds me of one of my favorite essays by Paul Graham: http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

    The nice thing about pseudo-anonymity on the Internet is that it lets people express their honest opinions without being socially punished for it in the real world. Of course we get the bad with the good–anonymity allows people to act like asshats, and grief or slander or harass others, and usually get away with it. On balance, I think the value of the freedom outweighs the cost in asshats.

    I tend to think of goverments (and all institutionalized power structures) as self-serving entities that try to hoard all power and control to themselves. Everything I’ve seen in the ~20 years since I formed that opinion has only reinforced it. The Internet is a great thing, bringing information and freedom of expression and freedom of association to billions of people around the globe. Naturally governments don’t like that, but they better get used to it, because they will not be able to stamp it out. Too many of today’s Internet users interpret censorship as damage, and will just route around it.

  6. This is one of those posts that is so comprehensive you can’t really add much in comments. I try not write posts like that so much these days. :P

    Of course, a libertine like me thinks humanity is transitioning toward a highly heterogeneous shift in consciousness, and perhaps even physicality, so the blue laws of the world are vestigial appendages due to rot off eventually. Whether or not I’m right, I think the measured approach your suggest is a wise one.

    There are a lot of specific topics that could be discussed, but I’d like to explore the idea of age-limits briefly. I think the rate at which minds develop is accelerating; there are twelve year olds today with my same physical/genetic g-factor that are as intelligent and/or informed as I was when I was fourteen. In ten years, there’ll be twelve year olds that are as sharp as I was when I was eighteen. Trying to chain or retard this accelration for fear of lost innocence is a losing strategy for any society. The notion of age as a metric of maturity is becoming more irrelevant. If I were a parent I’d be freaking out right now, hopefully by the time I am I’ll have figured out a reasonable parenting strategy for dealing with the radical informatic environment we all live in.

    Yeah, thats what they all say.

  7. I suspect you say that only because you have never lived under a regime …

    Anonymity isn’t a cure for censorship. It’s a blanket.

  8. I agree with Morgan’s statement. Where censorship is inappropriate, that censorship must be confronted openly. Leaks, anonymous whistleblowing, and such cause as many problems as they solve. Open opposition certainly has more dire consequences in some societies than in others, but victory by subterfuge undermines many of the values the victor sought to honor.

  9. Who said anything about “victory” at all? We could be talking mere existence.

    I have to admit that I am a little boggled. Let’s run use cases. A gay kid from a deeply religious and conservative family in rural Alabama participates in a chat room under a handle. You are saying that he is not allowed to do so, and must use his real name, because his doing so causes as many problems as it solves? Because it undermines values he sought to honor?

    I guess I just do not even understand the point you guys are trying to make. Do you really believe that doing away with anonymity altogether is no big deal? Frankly, our society RELIES on not knowing everything about people, and getting rid of anonymity goes a huge huge way towards making everything about people transparent.

    The bottom line is that anonymity is a refuge for the powerless — be it people who are powerless in a real sense (such as under an oppressive government) or simply powerless in the face of social structures. There may be no other way for them to express themselves. I think it is disingenuous to say “do it anyway and then take your lumps” — the sort of thing that only those who do not feel powerless say.

    (Yes, you’ve touched a nerve here. I apologize if I come across too harshly).

  10. While I had the same gut reaction to that incident, I also found myself wondering why I had been agreeable with anonymity for so long and thus, finding little in my examination, becoming willing to discard it.

    What I wasn’t willing to discard was the idea of pseudonymity: a false name to which accountability can be attached, but remains somehow removed from you. The main thing I see is that it gets… complex. Because I can’t seem to wrap my mind around it.

    So, curious. Thoughts?

  11. Heh, I say, “that incident”, as if you knew what I was talking about. I refer to the catalyzing incident, naturally: Kathy Sierra’s public withdrawal.

  12. You are saying that he is not allowed to do so, and must use his real name … Do you really believe that doing away with anonymity altogether is no big deal?

    Well, I never said anything about disallowing anonymity. I think community operators should be righted to require this and that as they deem appropriate. A code of conduct is not a set of laws enforced by an elected or self-proclaimed authority. The knights of olde had their chivalry, but from what I’ve read, most medieval knights were rarely chivalrous and chivalry was, more or less, not mandated. Similarly, a corporate code of ethics does not produce immediate ethical behavior from all employees; ethics require buy-in from the user community.

    I guess I just do not even understand the point you guys are trying to make. … In many parts of the world, free expression under your own name can get you killed, locked up for life, and so on.

    Does anonymity solve oppression? Clearly not. It’s a safety blanket. A safety blanket allows its users to circumvent their actual problems, increasing its user’s comfort with the status quo, and thus increases its user’s reliance on the blanket. Remove the sash from the eyes of the habitual wearer and you’ll find the wearer scrambling to avoid confrontations at the cost of freedom. And considering that virtual namelessness is not true anonymity, the safety blanket is more illusory than material, too.

    The bottom line is that anonymity is a refuge for the powerless …

    Anonymity in the face of fear is a leech upon the faceless.

    Declaration of Arbroath, Scotland: "…for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself." [Signed by 49 representatives.]

    Declaration of Independence, United States: "We … solemnly publish and declare [t]hat these United Colonies are … [a]bsolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown … And for the support of this Declaration … we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." [Signed by 56 representatives.]

    If an individual, or group of individuals, is serious about disseminating opinions that violate the laws of the state for the public good, threats of death and imprisonment are minor risks, and actual death and imprisonment are minor sacrifices. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Ghandi are but a few names of many that embody these historical sentiments. Imagine what would have happened if these people campaigned under the respective aliases, R1deUpfr0nt28, DeLaStrugL, and Sharky. A name grants the wearer capacity for credibility and influence. Names can be empowering. Anonymity, as a safety blanket, cannot.

    But we’re getting off track. The oppression argument is, I think, a red herring given that a code of conduct for the blogosphere would require buy-in from the majority of the user community to significantly impact the limited access to blogs that oppressed people possess… And then there’s the mandatory question, "Why are oppressed people risking their lives to read, and reply to, one of 71 million bloggers complaining about too many choices?"

  13. [...] THE BLOGOSPHERE It’s a lot harder to make the case for freedom of expression and anonymity in the wake of its use… Raph Koster mulls the use and abuse of online [...]

  14. I’m with Raph on this one. Oh, I do see huge problems with people abusing the anonimity and causing very big problems where they shouldn’t be. But freedom of expression always comes with problems. The benefits far outweight the problems.
    The ability to say whatever you want without being earmarked for death, torcher, or having your family drawn in too, this is huge.

    Communication is the biggest weapon in mankinds fight towards human rights and freedoms. The pen is mightier than the sword. We can handle lies and troublemaking through communication, what we can’t handle so easily is brutal retribution for standing up for your rights.

    This ability to communicate without being subject to reprisal is huge in the social evolution of mankind. We must not give it up, and we should protest any efforts to take it away.

    I do, however, support the US governments efforts in the war on terror. I think it’s a neccessity. But at the same time, it bears very close watching and should never be made permanent.

    These are the best of times, these are the worst of times.
    It is a double edged sword.
    Some things never change.
    The march goes on.
    Let freedom ring!

  15. The distress caused by griefers and asshats FAR outweighs the benefits of anonymity in the United States. For every gay kid from a deeply religious and conservative family making use of Internet anonymity to participate in a chat room, there are thousands of vicious sexist, racist, and homophobic bullies posting vile abuse all over the Internet and getting away with it.

    Consider the recent list of the most important women in the game industry that appeared on Next Gen. It included pictures, so wasn’t long before someone posted a list commenting on their appearance and speculating about their sexual inclinations and performance. These are professional colleagues of ours, subjected to this abuse for no more reason than they are female and prominent in the game industry. And of course the author is shielded by his anonymity, when his family and employers should really be learning about his behavior.

    I grant your point about Russia or China or Zimbabwe. But in the USA, Internet anonymity is abused far, far more than it is used out of legitimate fear of reprisal by the authorities.

    But what the hell, if I had a blog, I wouldn’t allow comments on it anyway, much less anonymous ones. If you’ve got something to say to me about something I’ve written, you’re welcome to send me E-mail.

  16. Pseudonyms could still be allowed, the anonymity could be maintained to a tolerable level for people who are after some level of protection from the society or peers around them. What should not be sacrosanct, however, is your identity whenever you abuse your position. I doubt the poor, defenceless lad cited as an example in one reply would be making death threats and posting sexually threatening images if his online persona was not being used as a cover to allow him to exercise and expose some real life issues. That is “freedom” being used to escape the scorn he would be subjected to in real life. In other words it is no freedom at all. The victim is entitled to freedom, too.

    It is not complex to do. In reality, any one of us here, there or anywhere online is already identifiable. Believe you are anonymous if you wish. Even the most diligent can eventually be traced if they have any reasonable amount of time online. I want to see the online world become an integral and mature tool for communication and discussion in all parts of the world. If that means cutting off the oxygen to some folks who would otherwise think twice about the cheap and offensive words they use – then I am prepared to accept that.

    So psudonyms and free-speech YES. Cover for bigotry and ignorance – NO.

  17. Ok, so, if RuDeDuDe gets really obnoxious with a female player but now everyone knows who he is, so he has to face the wrath of others to defend the honor of the girl.
    Meanwhile, American Joe gets testy with a skinhead and gets the crap beat out of him.
    Is this how it should work?

    Question about anonimity, in countries like China, isn’t there alot of telephone lines used and doesn’t that make people truelly anonimous?

  18. It would be wonderful if anonymity wasn’t necessary, if we could speak our minds freely. Before that can happen, we will require that people won’t freak out when they learn what we honestly think.

    It would be nice if “this war is wrong” didn’t get treated like treason. It would be nice if “i like the shape of your legs” didn’t get treated like sexual assault. It would be nice if “i think there’s a better way to do this” didn’t get one fired. It would be nice if playing with children didn’t get one arrested.

    It would be nice if people weren’t scared so often.

  19. I’ll probably sound like a bit of a purist/idealist here, but my thoughts are as follows:

    Free speech is an absolute ideal that many of us aim for.

    The price of free speech in a “free” society is that you have to deal with asshats who spout rubbish on blogs and so forth… like me ;o)

    The price of (attempted) free speech in an “unfree” society is often blood.

    It is our choice whether we fight for free speech, but the fact is: what we have and live with every day nowadays is literally an ideal for some. We should cherish and protect it as much as we should anything else. The fact that so called “free speech” (such as right to anonymity, right to say what you want, whether it be racist, communist, pro-gay, anti-establishment, or simply post an annoying comment) is now causing us hassle is simply the price we have to pay.

    This western generation is one of the most spoilt… we have enjoyed the luxury of free speech, and many generations paid and still pay for that with their blood. If someone wants to: print pictures of mohammed, advocate creationism, create a computer game based around cold blooded murder.. etc etc… then the fact is our responsibility is to help them. We owe it to ourselves to not just BELIEVE in free speech, but to defend it.. no matter how much of a boring fool they are.

    The blogosphere needs to stop being a bunch of nancies and stand up for the rights they deserve (and sometimes have). We should protect the right to anonymity. We should protect the right for uncensored blogs.

  20. I think people are getting confused. Freedoms are positive not negative e.g Freedom of speech, freedom of/from religion etc

    Freedoms do not work in a negative sense
    e.g. freedom not to have people swear at you, freedom not to be offended

    And don’t forget offense cannot be given. It can be intended by someone trying to be rude, but ultimatly it is the recipient who TAKES offence. Anyone remember sticks and stones breaks bones but names can never hurt.

    If you want to express your opinion you are free to do so.
    If someone insults you are threatens you they are free to do so.
    If you want to ignore them you are free to do so.

    Grow up people – having the ability to communicate without fear of reprisal is one of the greatest boons to a society – it is those who are afraid of change and growth who spread fear and what they call morality and try to compromise those freedoms.

    THE ONLY VALUE OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS FOR ME TO SAY WHAT YOU DON’T WANT ME TO

    even if it is purile

  21. Who said anything about “victory” at all? We could be talking mere existence.

    Perhaps “accomplishment” would have been a better word than “victory”, but the result I was aiming at is justice…a victory for justice. Anonymity is about safety and comfort. Comfort should be found through living rightly (which includes striving for justice), not by avoiding pain.

    I have to admit that I am a little boggled. Let’s run use cases. A gay kid from a deeply religious and conservative family in rural Alabama participates in a chat room under a handle. You are saying that he is not allowed to do so, and must use his real name, because his doing so causes as many problems as it solves? Because it undermines values he sought to honor?

    None of my Bama friends are gay, but will a Texas example do? A neighbor I grew up with is gay and part of a Southern, conservative Catholic family. Rather than comfortably hide his sexuality from his family, he lives openly. As a result, the tension is out there for them to grapple with together. Because of his humility, his acceptance that the future is often not as we expect, he learned that they can be together as a loving family despite their disagreement and that his sexuality isn’t a summation of his character. Because of his courage, the family can wrestle that tension and search for truth together.

    If he had shared his plight anonymously in chatrooms or otherwise hidden his sexuality from his family, not only would they have been more distant from one another (you can only love something so well as you know it…otherwise, what you love is an imaginary replica), but someone would be left in oblivious comfort…peaceful only because he or she doesn’t understand how he/she has turned his/her back on reality.

    Generally speaking, anonymity encourages cowardice, separation, distrust, and a host of other failures. Fear of pain is a terrible motivation, and one of the most common engines of injustice.

    Without meaning to be accusative, in my own experience, those who place the most value on privacy and anonymity tend to be people who have little experience with an open and vulnerable life. In a small town (where every word is heard), in a life without locks (where any moment may be interrupted), or in a home without separate rooms (where everything is seen), one learns how that openness and vulnerability can lead to greater closeness and a greater willingness to find justice past the pain.

    Anyway, all of that regards anonymity for the purpose of social protection. Internet anonymity also has to address concerns of financial protection, which is a very different animal.

  22. Metis,

    At the risk of you feeling I am starting some flame thing – I think it is you who is confused.

    Freedom to say what you want is fine. It is the freedom from responsibility which people object to. The guys and girls who recently posted threatening images and taunted physical violence were freee to say it. I defend that. What I object to is their use of that freedom and then abuse of the true right to reply since they had hidden their identity. If people threatened your friends and loved ones and went to the extent of posting their social security numbers, telephone numbers and address – then said they and the “boys” are going to go “open season” on them – would you expect their anonymity to be sacrosanct. There are ideals and there is common sense.

    Hiding behind a “freedom” in that circumstance, in my opinion, is not a “price we have to pay”. I think our right to free expression will survive just fine.

  23. [...] discussion should be moderated and tracked. Here is a link to a recent piece on the subject and here is another good analysis of the situation.I've always favoured internet anonymity but after [...]

  24. Raph’s last point in his initial post is what deserves the most attention. Humans are both individual and social beings. We need both freedom and community to be able to live fully.

    Satisfying both of these needs as much as possible for as many people as possible means finding a workable balance between expression and restraint. Yes, people should be free to express themselves in word and deed, but that freedom has to have limits for a society (whether RL or online) to function.

    It’s best for every member of a society if those limits are self-imposed, if we freely choose to exercise self-restraint, because the alternatives are cultural disintegration (insufficient limits) or repression by some power structure (excessive limits). Balance is good.

    Which means that balance ought to be an explicit goal in a designed society like a virtual world. The problem that Morgan Ramsay and Ernest Adams are pointing out is that high levels of anonymity discourage personal responsibility. Anonymous systems fail to promote self-restraint in equal measure to self-expression.

    Changing the rules of a very anonymous system so that it’s slightly less so is not repression. It’s an attempt to make the whole system work better for all participants by finding a more functional balance point between personal freedom and social order.

    Raph is right that anonymity has its virtues. But nailing a pseudonymous broadsheet to a tree to enumerate the excesses of a tyrant is not even close to being on the same level as the random griefage that generic anonymity enables. The jerk on a rush-hour highway who bumps your car and flips you off because he knows you’ll never see him again, the ninja-looter who mocks you as he logs off — these people aren’t risking their lives to fight tyranny, they’re just jerks and they don’t deserve the protection of anonymity.

    So put me down for a less anonymous — and therefore more balanced — online society.

    Except that Moses Moore is right, too, and we shouldn’t have to be afraid to speak our mind because someone Out There can find out where we live.

    Sigh. People complicate everything….

  25. Except that Moses Moore is right, too, and we shouldn’t have to be afraid to speak our mind because someone Out There can find out where we live.

    People should be aware, whether fearfully or respectfully, that criticism and critical reaction will result from expression. To claim that you are being oppressed because, say, nobody supports your position is childish at best. Imagine if celebrities ran around in circles, flailing their arms, and shouting that their rights to freedom of speech are being trampled upon by their critics! "Oh, the humanity! A bad review! What am I to do!?" When you express yourself in the public square, you’re no longer protected by shower curtains.

    The natural and purposeful effect of anonymity is the negation of accountability. That is, negating accountability for actions and words is the whole point of anonymity! Anonymity is not freedom of speech, and responsibility is not censorship. The freedom of speech grants citizens the civil right to engage in discourse that is either critical of the government or socially undesirable, such as racism. In the United States, the First Amendment is intended to grant citizens protection from the government, not from the people you heckel or threaten, or the people who disagree with, criticize, and react to your thoughts.

    I don’t believe I have anything left to add to this discussion, so here’s the tip of the hat and the wag of my finger. ;)

  26. “the scale from encouraging growth and exploration, to making sure that an individual’s actions do not harm others directly or indirectly.”

    That is the crux of the responsibility of the provider of the enviornment. Some would have that growth and exploration directed, some would have an enviornment where harm cannot be done even to those unaware they may be harmed. This depends as much on the ideology or premise of the community, as it does on the provider.

    The restrictions by the Lindens represent a failure of the community to self regulate, and all organizations are self protecting, insofar as they want to remain stable and grow. LL is faced with the growing pains they built into a system that allowed all of which you cited, something I’ve stated here and elsewhere in the past, for SL to get past its tipping point it needs to clean up and self regulate, IBM and John Edwards and Sears dont want to have islands next to that activity, proximity breeds association, and in this case the perception of apathy is not acceptable to a branded product.

    Now SL as a branded product that allows people to freak with freedom, those days are numbered. The community can blame itself but the last people they should be blaming is the Lindens.

    China’s restrictions are a function of its ideology. Like other societies historically predispositioned toward strong centralized governments its less a function of choice than a function of soceital norms. China does what it needs to, to protect China, not US ideology.

    And so the red herring arguement is missing the point, capitalisim does not go hand in hand with democracy any more than freedom goes hand in hand with individulaism. Do not confuse these concepts, the people of China nor thier Government confuse these concepts, and niether should anyone else or organizations doing business in China for that matter.

    What you do about it individually is the measure of your commitment to these concepts only insofar as a citizen of a country that enjoys the marriage of a capitalist democracy enjoying freedom of choice. It is not however a universal truth or state of being in 3/4ths of the rest of the world.

    No in fact 2/3rds of the world goes to sleep hungry, living in poverty, violence, corruption and/or under a police state, or any combination therof, and sometimes all of them.

  27. Morgan Ramsay: If an individual, or group of individuals, is serious about disseminating opinions that violate the laws of the state for the public good, threats of death and imprisonment are minor risks, and actual death and imprisonment are minor sacrifices.

    It’s amazing how easy it is to say that when it isn’t your death or imprisonment that’s being risked.

  28. Aaron wrote: “Comfort should be found through living rightly (which includes striving for justice), not by avoiding pain.”

    With respect, isn’t that rather equivalent to “if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear”? And isn’t that the exact argument used to undermine any right to privacy by the west’s increasingly repressive, surveillance-obsessed governments?

    It leave the interpretation of “living rightly” in the hands of the people who have the power to spy on you and take action, and so bears no relation to any kind of consensus morality.

    I agree with Ross Smith’s point, above, it’s easy to be flip about avoiding pain when you haven’t seen your co-religionists beaten and tortured, people who share your sexuality persecuted, or feared the militia pounding on the door at 4am.

    It would really suck if we in the relatively free world agreed to let internet anonymity slip in the face of one unpleasant heavily-reported incident, and in so doing helped facilitate an avalanche of worse fates to befall people in secret in the world’s more oppressive and intolerant nations.

    Frankly, I wouldn’t feel great about posting this (relatively innocent) comment, if I had to provide my full street address for all to see, or my work e-mail (which contains my surname) and that’s not because I am doing anything wrong, it’s because I have no way of moderating the reaction of people out there who don’t like my beliefs, and are prepared to take that issue offline.

  29. It’s amazing how easy it is to say that when it isn’t your death or imprisonment that’s being risked.

    It’s amazing how easy it is to manipulate a message by deliberately excluding pertinent information.

    The entire paragraph to which you referenced is as follows:

    If an individual, or group of individuals, is serious about disseminating opinions that violate the laws of the state for the public good, threats of death and imprisonment are minor risks, and actual death and imprisonment are minor sacrifices. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Ghandi are but a few names of many that embody these historical sentiments. Imagine what would have happened if these people campaigned under the respective aliases, R1deUpfr0nt28, DeLaStrugL, and Sharky. A name grants the wearer capacity for credibility and influence. Names can be empowering. Anonymity, as a safety blanket, cannot.

    Emphasis added.

  30. Do you really believe that doing away with anonymity altogether is no big deal? Frankly, our society RELIES on not knowing everything about people, and getting rid of anonymity goes a huge huge way towards making everything about people transparent.

    But should our society rely on not knowing everything about people? Surely a strong community thrives on the exact opposite?

    In a small village everybody knows each other’s business – there is a strong sense of community, respect and well-being. In the city neighbours are often faceless and sometimes disrespectful – life in some areas can be intolerable for many as some exercise their right to freedom of expression.

    Ignoring a sub-woofer from cars refuelling at 4am in the petrol station opposite each and every night is simply not an option.

    However, although an open and transparent society can create a healthy, strong community that can only happen if the community respect each other. Whilst there is a chance that vigilante action could be taken, whether it be by an individual or a state, a totally transparent society is not attainable.

    Anonymity is therefore a totally necessary component of a disrespectful society.

  31. Anonymity is definitely a big huge factor is disrespect — I am not trying to minimize the issues that come with it, which are tremendous.

    But I think you also are idealizing those small communities — and let’s not kid ourselves that there isn’t a ton of privacy in even those, compared to what the future is going to bring. Already in countries like the UK, there are literally dozens of surveillance cameras on a person standing in the street.

  32. For those who don’t read O’Reilly’s Radar, there’s a fresh post to devour and tear asunder.

  33. And only tangentially related, Joe Wilkert has an interview online with the publisher of Blogger & Podcaster, a magazine for guess who. In the comments there, I suggest forming a nonprofit trade association for the “blog industry.” Hey, O’Reilly’s already tackling QoL issues…

  34. [...] Raph Koster’ blog: Paternalistic or Libertine? [...]

  35. How come everyone gets so hot under the collar about governments seeking to engineer healthy communities, and yet no-one bats an eyelid at the terms and conditions corporations impose on their proprietary worlds where all this social interaction is taking place? How come no-one gets all fired up about the EULA that restricts free speech (specially when it is detrimental to the corporation’s interests)? The argument that if you don’t like it you can go choose a different game world where the EULA is better doesn’t hold much water in a market where all EULAs read the same – it’s not like there’s much of a a choice between these standard contracts. All this anti-government-power rhetoric seems to assume there is no other power being exerted in these environments and if the government would butt out, freedom would prevail. Well. There’s usually a profit-seeking corporation acting as an intermediary that is exerting all sorts of power and restrictions on your libertine rights. Why can’t we get a little hot under the collar about that too?

  36. [...] Raph points out that the Chinese limits on game play time go into effect this week. None of this matters much in China, needless to say, where the government is already firmly on the paternalistic side. But the fact is that the more we vigorously defend libertine behavior as exemplars of the sorts of freedoms we want in virtual spaces, the less likely we are to get said freedoms in today’s climate. It’s a lot harder to make the case for freedom of expression and anonymity in the wake of its use for death threats, it’s a lot harder to make the case of freedom to create unregulated virtual currencies when they are used for gambling, and it’s a lot harder to argue for unverified identities when it’s used to simulate pedophilia. [...]

  37. [...] documented on Raph Koster’s blog, China has implemented Blizzard’s first pass at the idea. Players under 18 get an experience [...]

  38. [...] offers an insightful discussion ("Paternalistic or Libertine"), focusing on freedom vs. the issue of anonymity.  Steven Davis frames his viewpoint [...]

  39. But I think you also are idealizing those small communities — and let’s not kid ourselves that there isn’t a ton of privacy in even those, compared to what the future is going to bring. Already in countries like the UK, there are literally dozens of surveillance cameras on a person standing in the street.

    I think there’s a distinction between anonymity and privacy, though. The ability to have some level of privacy is almost undeniably a necessary quality of a healthy society. However, that kind of necessary privacy doesn’t typically involve interaction with other people outside of that sphere of privacy. Sure, I should absolutely be able to read whatever books I want without a soul knowing about it. What business is it of my neighbor’s, or the government’s?

    But anonymity (and internet anonymity in particular) isn’t really about that. It’s about being able to interact freely with anyone you choose, saying whatever you want, without anyone being able to attribute those statements or actions to you (or any permanent entity). That’s not a normal state of affairs. Nobody had that ability in the past except in very limited forms, and I don’t think a healthy society can function that way. There have to be social consequences for a person’s public actions in order for them to develop into healthy social beings.

    Now, you’re right that it is scary that it will be (and already is to some extent) difficult to speak with any form of anonymity in dire circumstances where it is vital to keep your identity secret in order to stay alive or avoid prison. Unfortunately, though, I think this is just a reality we have to deal with that comes from the development of technology. I’m obviously not saying we shouldn’t legislate against invasion of privacy issues and such (and again, I think there is a distinction between cameras in houses and public speaking being anonymous by default), but the fact is that we are nearing a time when “omniscient” rulers are always going to be a threat, and it’s just something we have to accept as a danger. We don’t have to throw out all hope of a healthy “online” society out of fear of this danger, however.

    A poster above commented that they thought it would be a shame to lose internet anonymity over a gut reaction to some over-publicized event, and I agree. The reason to give up anonymity has nothing to do with discrete, dramatic events. It has to do with looking at online society and wondering if, as a whole, it is functioning as a healthy society.

  40. [...] China’s MMO Time Limits and Identity RegistrationRaph Koster blogged about China’s new time limits on MMOs. Games will be required to give declining XP rates for playing for over 3 hours a day, if you’re under 18 years of age; and after 5 hours, no advancement at all. His focus is on the issue of anonymity, and the impact of requiring gamers to register with real names and identity cards. [...]

  41. [...] died over there in mmo related incidents…. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4183340.stm http://www.raphkoster.com/2007/04/10…-or-libertine/ Having to play more because of grinds is just bad game design. Also considering this game is for [...]

  42. [...] on 10 Apr 2007 at 11:07 pm   Raph’s Website [...]

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.