Linden Lab’s upcoming change for Adult Content in Second Life is not particularly shocking or new. Years ago there were rumors of an ‘adult’ grid similar to that of the teen grid. There’s always been a struggle in the handling of adult content within Second Life and has been the target of press coverage and politician’s questions. This change for adult content doesn’t surprise or upset me, nor should it surprise or upset anyone else. I believe it’s a move to align with the rest of the Internet and the rules, laws and regulations that exist for everyone else.
When visiting a beer or alcohol website, your asked for your date of birth; when visiting pornographic or nude sites your are warned as the content and type of website that you are about to visit. These are common rules and guidelines, backed by laws handling adult content online. While Second Life is a virtual world, it still exists in an online space that’s regulated by these rules. Segregating adult, mature, and general content is not only a smart move, but better handled by Linden Lab rather than some rating regulation committee (such as the ERSB). I don’t see this as a horrible policy that changes everything, it’s been a long time coming, but some questions arise.
The first revolves around the definition of adult content. Is nudity adult? Is topless adult? The general consensus is adult material refers to pornographic or content that is clearly sexual in nature. A topless woman in art piece is not adult, however if she’s engaged in a sexual act it is. Adult can also have an element of violence attached to it, which I think is really hard to regulate. Say a definition of adult content has an attached meaning of violence, would that mean karate animations are adult content? Would there be a limit to the amount of punches of kicks an animation has that would determine its adult nature? In this example, I’m sure the answer would be no.
The definition of adult content brings up the question about privacy. Many individuals have skyboxes with adult material in them. How should, or would, that be regulated? Must individuals who may not have a business and purely use Second Life as an entertainment platform move their personal items from their skyboxes because it resides in a mature area? How will privacy and adult content mix or change? I don’t think there will be much of a change here, I’m sure there’s plenty of cases where mature items exists on ‘PG’ land, however it’s a question worth asking and a topic that would draw the more amount of ire.
While Dusan Writer believes this is a step in the upcoming merger with the teen-grid, I believe that it’s a broader move that aligns Second Life with many other online policies. While it may placate those who tend to focus on many of the scandalous items in Second Life, it follows policies other services have in place, particularly Flickr and DeviantArt who have a plethora of adult material. This move reminds me of the “cleaning up” of 42nd Street in New York City. While the area became more “Disney” or family friendly, the area also became more profitable and accessible. The area (and the city) was not removed of all adult material; it was either relocated or rebranded (i.e. The Hawaiian Tropic Zone in Times Square). In my view, this is a move Linden Lab has to make and should have years ago.