As a recognized member of the press in Second Life, I received the below transcript from Pete Linden regarding the upcoming changes to adult content. Questions were answered from Cyn Linden, Ken Linden, and Jack Linden in-world on a variety on topics such as the segregation and censhorship of adult content in Second Life and the logistics of the move and change. Read More
Transcript of Press Conference on Upcoming Changes for Adult Content
Date: May 1, 2009
Topic: Adult content initiative
Spokespeople: Cyn Linden, Ken Linden, Jack Linden
Q: How did you determine the quantity of Adult land?
A: (Jack): For some time, we’ve been running large scale surveys of mainland content, literally walking the miles and seeing what was there. We also looked very hard at the way that search and search hits come back to get an overall feel for how much content there is and how much it’s being looked for. What we found was that the actual number of parcels that had adult content was actually fairly low, actually just a few percent. Obviously some areas, it’s more than others, but neverthe less on average, it’s not a huge amount. Yes, on average about 5% is about right. Looking the 5000 regions of mainland and thinkinb about how many island we have and so on, what we’ve done is created a fairly small continent of just a few 100 regions in size; initially, it’ll just be 50-70 regions up, but it’ll be able to expand. And that’s where we came to with the amount of land we put out.
Q: I have two sims – one is KIC, the Kids Information Center, which is for child avatars, and the other is Underground, which is a very dark, cyberpunk, roleplay city where we play teenage avatars too. KIC is rated PG, and Underground, I rate Mature; I don’t allow nudity there or sex, the reason I rate it Mature is in our roleplay we use strong language, just like teenagers do. There is a bit of concern among the child avatar community whether it will be ok to have a region rated Mature as a kid avatar.
A: (Cyn): Our policies don’t say anything about the type of roleplaying that you’re talking about. I don’t want to go down the road of going through individual examples of “that’s ok, that’s not ok” – that’s not something that we’ve ever wanted to do or intend to do in the future. But, sexual ageplay is not the same thing as the roleplaying you seem to be talking about and so it wouldn’t fall under the guidelines we’re talking about today.
Q: It seems to me like in the media, you read about how SL is nothing but a place for naked avatars – it seems obvious to me, and probably everyone here, that you really don’t find a lot of adult content unless you’re looking for it. So to me, this seems like a change to address an image problem in the sense of saying, ‘No, this isn’t what it’s like.’ But, what about efforts to address the image problem of people saying, ‘There’s nothing to do here, and it’s all adult.’ So, we’re addressing one aspect of it, but how do you address the aspect of getting people to understand that Second Life is full of artists, musicians, builders, and things to do and it’s almost impossible to not find stuff to do here.?
A: (Cyn): I think that’s a really good point. This isn’t about external pressure for us, this about people being able to find exactly the sort of things you’re talking about, and currently the way that search is structured, it’s very difficult to find those things you’re talking about. So rather than being about an image problem, this is about us wanting people to be able to choose the kind of experience that they want and give them the control to do so.
Q: How will landowners be compensated for their mainland and compensated with this new land on the new continent? Who decides on an equitable exchange?
A: (Jack): For those that are going to take part in the free move period, for those folks we’ll open the land up for a couple of weeks, I expect, before things kick off, and those folks will be able to go have a look at the land, a look at the parcels, which will be named in useful ways, hopefully. In terms of the actual exchange part of the question – when we get into the support tickets where people self identify themselves, they’ll let us know where they want to move to, which parcels they’re interested in taking on. There’ll be some back-and-forth, I expect. For some people, there may be some swapping around, we may need to do a bit of reparcelling for them, but by and large, we’ll be doing everything we can to ensure the exchange is a fair one for all concerned. But ostensibly, it’ll be their choice as to which area., which parcel they choose, and there’s a general feeling that we’ll be able to provide enough land that there’ll be plenty of choice.
In terms of compensation, the way it will work is that people will have several options in terms of the land they’re leaving behind. If they want to keep the land they’re leaving behind and take on extra land, then they’ll obviously need to ‘clean up’ the content on their old parcel. Equally, they can simply sell their land and that’ll be fine to, or they may want to just abandon it back to us. So we’ll give them some device about how to avoid double-tiering and things like that, but that’s essentially how it’ll work.
Q: This seems an awful lot like censorship and the beginnings of a removal of adult content from Second Life. Is this?
A: (Cyn): No, it sure isn’t. As I said, I’ve been here for a very long time, and nothing about the way that Linden Lab operates of the way that we feel about what happens inworld or the way we interact with the community would ever lead us down the path of wanting to do something like that. We are not doing that. We are not removing adult content. We are creating a place for it that we think is going to be very effective for people that want to participate in that. I think it will give them a place to have a predictable experience with people who want to have that same experience – on both sides. So if you’re in a Mature area, you have an expectation of an experience there, and if you’re in an Adult area, you have an expectation of an experience there. It’s not an attempt to get rid of adult content in any way. It’s an attempt to rationalize our search so that it makes more sense for people so they can find what they want to find.
Q: If the intent is to make it easier to find things in search, why focus on adult content, why not focus on art, music, or a million other things? I personally think this isn’t necessarily a bad move, it’s probably a good move, but I don’t know that the stated reason for doing this makes sense to me. There’s a lot of people I hear saying “we’ll have to get rid of our skyboxes, they’re not going to let us do the things we want to in private” – how do you address those questions in terms of impact to people on the mainland who may have a private chunk of land and want to do whatever they want on that land?
A: (Ken): Let me take the second one first. What this initiative is focused on is public content. So, basically, people that are reaching out to the rest of the platform through classifieds, particularly, and search with events, etc. It’s not regulating/categorizing/etc. private, truly private residences that are not engaging in that way. So that’s kind of an easy one to answer.
As far as why we’re focusing on adult content, and first, we are working on a number of initiative and we’ve rolled out some initiatives that do make it easier for people to find, for instance, music and other events that they’re looking for, so I think we agree that that’s an important effort to help connect Residents to the stuff they’re interested in. But the reason that we’re doing this particular initiative with adult content this way is there are a number of people, organizations, Residents, that want a way to control their experience a bit better and make it a bit more predictable when they run into adult content. And they had sometimes been running into that, whether in search or elsewhere in a way they just want to control a bit better. The way that we’re doing it is also going to benefit people that are looking for the adult content or looking to market their adult content, so it’s really going to benefit both sides of the aisle and give people that are conducting adult activities that extra layer of assurance that they want that the people that they’re doing this with are over 18.
Q: My questions are around metrics. What will the Lab’s metric of success be for the project? And, will economic stats internally or externally measure the growth / ongoing use of adult content? If the use of adult content grows as a result of this, will it be used as a point for decision-making in the future marketing efforts? How do you measure if it succeeds? What will you be measuring in the long term?
A: (Ken): It’s a big question, and I don’t think that really the full metric here is in numbers. I think the metric we would use is: does this, in time, become a truly useful tool for people on one hand, who are Residents looking for content, on the other hand, are Residents looking to avoid certain content, and equally for merchants, promoters, other landowners that are looking to connect with people who are looking to connect with them. The way you judge if it’s a useful tool isn’t simply a numbers metric, you look at use cases, you listen to feedback, and you see how people are using the platform.
Q: Segregating adult content to a special area is clearly censorship and moves one of the few profitable services in Second Life. Will you be publishing the information on the complaints about lack of control you’ve received? How are you not lowering the standard to the lowest common children denominator?
A: (Cyn): We’re not lowering to the lowest common children denominator, because if you look at what’s defined as Adult, it’s actually pretty far on the Adult end of the scale. The majority of Second Life is remaining exactly as it has always been – Mature; it’s an 18+ service. And although we’re adding a layer for adult predictability, the majority of what is in Second Life right now will stay exactly as it is. I don’t know if we’ll ever publish information about complaints; we certainly take feedback from all sides, and as you can imagine, the people that are feeling challenged about this situation come from both sides of that question. There are many good reason for us to be moving down this road. I want us to be careful here about saying that we’re ‘segregating people into a separate area,’ because we’re not actually doing that. We’re creating a part of our mainland that has a particular intent; in this particular case, it happens to be Adult. It only affects people that are currently on the mainland; it affects them in a way that they can either choose to move, choose to change their content, or choose to go to a private estate if they prefer. I could see us in the future creating other continents that have other purposes – Bay City is certainly the same type of thing.
Q: This will be a hardship for some of the adult companies in Second Life.
A: (Ken): We’ve had a number of discussions, with a number of adult merchants, club-owners, etc. and there is a value proposition here, an important one for the adult community. First, most people right now in the adult area, are already account-verified in one way or another, and the vast majority of the rest can easily get account-verified. So, there’s not really a steep hill there to get to the content you want to get to. This also creates important marketing and search opportunities. For example, if I’m looking for a certain type of clothing or accessory that’s going to accompany my adult experience, it’s often tough to find in search right now, because all search is the same. By creating separate search tools for Adult, Mature, PG, and permitting those to be addititive or not, you wind up permitting what really is targeted search and targeted marketing. We think that’s going ot be a significant business opportunity for merchants, club-owners, and others using Second Life for adult experiences.
Q: I took a poll about age verification and it shows that about 13% of respondents weren’t visiting Adult land, so they don’t care. 40% say they will comply with verification, they don’t think it’s a big deal even if they’re not happy with it. About 48% say they don’t trust the verification companies or they feel like they can do what they want on their land. So, my question is – with not trusting the companies, it sounds like you’ve dealt with that by providing this option of using a credit care to verify, not just this company. Do you have a plan of action to go out and survey and proactively nab people that don’t verify – are you going to look for them, or will you wait for Abuse Reports?
A: (Ken):For people that don’t verify, there’s going to be a self-effectuating solution, which is that they’re not going to be able to access adult content, so that’s a pretty significant incentive for them.
Any valid payment method or payment history that the credit card system acknowledges is going to be able to serve as payment info on file. Or you can go through the age-verification service that we’ve got. And we think that’ll be an effective way to streamline the process.
For enforcement, we will handle this similarly to the way we’ve handled other rules. We expect to get a number of Abuse Reports, and we’ll talk to people, we’ll be inworld, we’ll be looking and listening, and there will be incentives for people to follow the rules, which we think people will do.
We’re going to gauge what the compliance level is; we think it will be high. We think that landowners in the adult business are going to designate their land as adult. And assuming that the compliance level is high and people are following the rules, which we think they will, then we’re going to need to do less from a proactive standpoint. If people don’t follow the rules for some reason we haven’t yet considered, then we’re going to have to do more. It’s important that this be a useful tool, and for that to happen, it’s got to be consistent and everybody has to be on the same page.
Q: You just talked about different continents possibly having different uses, and I’m trying to get a read on what the Lab’s philosophy towards geography is. This is a very clear creation of a continent for a specific purpose – is that an indication of a trend that will continue? I’m also sort of fascinated with when you think about these things, are you always using terms like ‘use cases’ and ‘filtering’ and ‘search’ or do you think of this as, I think of this as a world, and if you think about it as a world, I’d be talking to urban planners and theorists over what makes a city a vibrant place. So two parts: is this part of a trend? And is your thought process around geography around use cases and filtering, or is there another level to it that addresses that this is a world?
A: (Jack): These are things that come up quite often in office hours. I’m fascinated equally about geography, it’s something obviously that everyone has a good feel for in terms of the real world and the analogy with the real world. Let me answer the two sides of that. There is a philosophy that we want to provide more choice. That will show itself in various ways – one is obviously in the way land plays out. Giving users choice about the experience they have, for example how predictable the experience they have with land is, is a key part of that. One of the things we’ve learned very clearly from things like Nautilus and Bay City and other places, like Blake Sea, is there are some people who really value having a predictable neighborhood that doesn’t change much, that has infrastructure that doesn’t change. So for those people, those areas are a really good choice. For other people, they prefer the wild chaos of mainland as it used to be. There’ll always be that kind of mainland around where people have far less infrastructure around them and things are a bit more chaotic. So, from that point of view, the drive and philosophy is really around choice.
That obviously affects the geography. In some occasions, it makes sense to put in some geographic barriers between different areas – if you look at Bay City, there’s some separation by water. In general, real world analogies work well in Second Life, but there’s also a place for the bizarre as well. In other places, it makes sense for it to be tightly integrated. So for example zoning is something we are looking at – whether we can have an area of mainland that’s purely noncommercial, for example, and optionally so. That isn’t something that would probably apply to existing mainland, it’s something that would probably apply to new mainland, but there are people who would find that a compelling experience. Choice is the driver really.
There’s always a side to any policy or land decision which looks at the segmented kinds of users and tries to understand the different kinds of customers we have, but there’s also a balance of that – the community aspect, all the many and varied ways in which this is really a world, and we see it as a world. We have to balance the two. And when we think about it in terms of it being a cohesive, contiguous space, geography is very key to that, and we would love to do a lot more that brings out neighborhoods, gives better map titles, so that there could be districts and such over time. But geography is very key to us.
Q: How does this initiative affect a potential merge of Teen Second Life and Second Life? I’ve talked to a lot of educators, and everyone hears over and over that the inhibitions to engage in Second Life and work with the educational possibilities, people say, ‘no, I can’t do it because penises are going to drop on my kids’
A: (Cyn): Well, I think it’s important to note that there isn’t really anything we’re going to do that’s going to keep a 13 year-old from building a penis and dropping it on his teacher’s head, you know things like that happen in the real world too – teacher’s get stuff thrown at them all the time. So, on a more serious note, you can look at some of these changes – especially around people being able to predict their search better, and you can see where that would be a more amenable circumstance for a business or in education. But, it’s very difficult, since we haven’t actually made any decisions about what we’re going to do with TSL moving forward, to draw a parallel there. If you look at what we’re doing with search, if I were a business or an educator, that would make me more comfortable about how I might be able to interact with Second Life, but we haven’t made any decisions about going any further down that road. Potentially it opens the door to that, it’s certainly something that we will engage the community with and talk about, but this isn’t meant to be a solution for that.
Q: Since the new system verifies accounts as adults, are child avatars in adult areas still subject to the same rules as before, now that the user can be verified as an adult? Can child avatars visit adult regions?
A: (Ken): Let me very briefly review what the policies are now. You are allowed to have a child avatar, a miniaturized avatar. You are not allowed to engage in sexual or sexualized activities or simulations with a child avatar. That policy will remain the same after this initiative.
Q: Does this policy also apply to users of the behind-the-firewall sims (codenamed Nebraska)?
A: (Cyn): That’s really a separate product that we’re testing with enterprise customers and the policies that we make for Second Life don’t extend to that product, it’s not really part of this conversation. Anything that’s on our grid is going to follow our grid’s rules.
Q: How will the search filtering affect classified ads?
A: (Ken): The search filtering is in concept similar to any other search filtering that you might see out there, with the caveat that we are trying to be very careful as to which words we put on the list. In formulating it, we’ve spent many hours in the search tool, trying to determine how words are used in Second Life as search tags, by merchants and landowners. So, although search filtering is never 100% clean and efficient, we’ve tried very hard to make sure that words that have common dual meanings are not going to get caught up in these filters.
Q: I’d like to know if skins will be considered as adult content and will the Teen grid rules have to be applied?
A: (Ken): So, what do we mean when we say ‘photorealistic’ nudity will probably be adult? By photorealistic, we mean that to your average, reasonable person, it looks real, like a photograph. In other words, it’s probably a photograph. We’re not talking about avatars, we’re not talking about skins. That said, if you’re selling skins and you’re using terms that are going to be covered by the search filters, because they’re very commonly understood adult terms, then you’re going to be filtered. Simply selling skins will not in itself, in most cases, put you in the adult category.
(Cyn): If you’re asking about ‘permanent underwear’, if that’s what you mean by the Teen grid rules, no, we’re not applying that.