It comes up all the time: the question of whether managing an online community is like governance. Whether the users are at least somewhat like citizens, and not just like customers, and whether the admins are effectively policymakers, and not just game developers out to make a buck.
It’s an interesting question with tons of ramifications. Indeed, Ted Castronova’s upcoming book, which I was lucky enough to get a manuscript copy of, is entirely devoted to the idea that the real world is going to learn a lot of lessons from online governance.
In the meantime, what we get is the opposite. It turns out that the latest allegations of corrupt administration in EVE Online may have been a deliberate smear attempt by a guild. CCP, makers of EVE, have posted an evidence trail that in their opinion in damning — the fact that there was a prior beef between the guild in question and CCP, the fact that somehow the story hit all Net outlets simultaneously right at the start of a holiday weekend…
I can’t judge who’s in the right on this. To me what is interesting is that frankly, it looks like the action of a political party against their opposition. But it’s not like EVE’s “government” can be toppled. The only real result from an action like this is effectively a scorched earth policy: “we don’t like how things are run, so we’ll destroy the game for everyone.” Of popular reactions like these are dictatorships made.
Edit: the drama continues with the guild’s response.