Virtual World gets tough on law & order

By Mark O’Neill
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Normally a virtual world such as Second Life or Lively is seen by some as a bit of a lawless land, where you can say or do whatever you want without punishment.    I mean, who’s going to stop you, right?  But a virtual world for mobile phones called Cellufun has decided to change the rulebook by starting a “virtual justice system” for anyone who steps out of line.   Yes boys and girls, the new sheriff is coming to town!

Here’s a sampling of a few crimes that can land you in the proverbial Dog House :

  • Saying bad words such as the F Word (“gasp!”)
  • Repeated attempts to make friends with an uninterested character (such as male characters harassing female characters, or maybe the other way around?)
  • Starting a “flame war”
  • An exchange of hostile messages (probably containing more naughty words)

Defendants go before the “courthouse” and are tried by a jury of other community members.   If convicted, sentences range from being mute for 20 minutes to being banished.

I applaud the effort to rein in troublemakers and make the virtual world more trouble-free.   But you have to look at it realistically and ask yourself “how much trouble is it for banished members to start up a new account and avatar, then start again?”.  Not much trouble I’d imagine.

As this Washington Post article points out, most virtual worlds have their own self-appointed sheriffs / keepers of the peace….call them what you will, and places like Second Life have their own forms of “time out” for troublemakers (“The Corn Field”).

So do we need the management of virtual worlds creating their own official justice systems or is the present unofficial system fine the way it is?  What do you think?

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