What to do if you get banned

Over the last two and a bit months, I’ve been asked on no less than three occasions to assist people who have been banned from Second Life. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve been asked – touch wood I’ve never faced banning myself – and have at best only heard third-hand of people’s experiences when banned; but I’ll take the fact that I have been asked as a) a form of compliment, and b) a learning situation – because the only way I’ve been able to provide any kind of help is to read the rules myself.

Linden Lab themselves provide a set of guidelines on the subject, but that said, and for what it is worth, here’s a quick guide – not a foolproof guide, mark, and one that doesn’t carry any guarantee – of things to do should you get banned. Following the notes below may not get you unbanned, but they may help the situation.

Try to avoid getting banned in the first place

Well, “duh!” I hear you say – but the fact of the matter is there are rules surrounding the use of Second Life, and whether we agree with them or not, the best way to avoid getting a ban in the first place is to avoid any infringement of said rules.

Now, granted, the Terms of Service aren’t a great help here. The statement Linden Lab has the right at any time for any reason or no reason to suspend or terminate your Account… is, not to put too fine a point on it, both bland and yet all-encompassing: it opens all of us to the risk of banning or suspension. However, there are some specifics that can be used to help avoid a ban (or a suspension):

  • Be careful with your choice of avatar name. Names which are misleading, offensive or infringing can be subject to banning, even if they survive the hurdle of registration. Names selected, or which appear (note the key word here) to be have been selected to causing deception or confusion may well be subject to a ban; similarly, names which infringe upon, or give the appearance of infringing upon, a copyright or trademark may also be subject to a ban. Likewise any name Linden Lab deems to be offensive or vulgar will be banned. So while you may well be creating that alt account in a fit of pique, just take care over the name! And remember that while it may seem a fun idea to give your avatar a sex-oriented or suggestive name (“GagMeTight Oh”, “SexyTwat Twitter”, or the like), and indeed a harmless prank, there is no guarantee that others will view your choice in the same harmless manner…
  • If you are engaged on SL commerce, be aware of Linden Lab’s rules on money transfers and financial transactions, and particularly the in-world caps on avatar-avatar transfers. While these then to invoke a suspension during a period of investigation rather than an outright ban, bans can occur if the rules are repeatedly ignored.
  • Don’t get abusive or rude in the forums or SL-related activities. Again, a ban in one can lead to a suspension / outright ban elsewhere.
  • Don’t engage in activities such as griefing – or even responding to griefing. Just because Joe Schmoe is bombarding your sim with self-replicating prims doesn’t give you the right to go after him come hell or high water, orbit him, attack him, hit his own land / sim in retaliation or anything else. All it may well do is place you on the wrong end of an AR.
  • Don’t put yourself in situations where your avatar or actions could be misinterpreted – such as wandering around a sexplay sim looking like an adolescent and engaging in sexual banter with others (again, note the emphasis and remember that LL have themselves made this one a particular minefield by stating on the one hand that it is “OK” for child-like avatars to roam “Adult” sims (Blondin Linden) but on the other hand, it is a violation for such avatars to engage in “sexual activities”).

Don’t panic!

Banning does not equate to account deletion. You inventory will be held for a couple of months following the ban, so you have time enough to launch an appeal and hopefully get the situation remedied.

Read the e-mail notifying you of your ban / suspension

Contrary to common myth, Linden Lab do send out a notification as to why an account is banned / suspended. If you’ve not received one, it’s probably more to do with the spam filtering on your e-mail system than it is with Linden Lab failing to notify you. So…if you find your account blocked, take the time to go investigate. Check your recent e-mails, look at your incoming junk, etc., (providing such is not automatically deleted) – you will find something from LL on the matter.

Gather some basic information

It seems ironic, but before you can move towards getting your account unblocked, you first need to prove who you are. As a start you’ll need to have the basic information on the account itself: the avatar first name and last name, the e-mail address connected to the account, the answer to your secret question (set when you created the account, and the biggest downfall for all of us, as we so easily forget), any payment information registered against the account, etc. You may even be required to provide other information as well – details of Friends on your list, your home sim, etc.

If you cannot provide basic criteria proving the account is yours – then, sadly, you’re sunk.

Contact Linden Lab

You have three options for this: raise a support ticket, fax them or write to them (see the Kb link above). Raising a support ticket requires you have an Alt account or can log-in as guest. I actually have little faith in the support ticket system when using it as a guest – all too often the response comes back that you’ve made a request that isn’t “appropriate” to the (pre-defined) subject heading, and has therefore been closed by the system – therefore, I’d personally opt for faxing / writing. Neither have the immediacy of a ticket, true, but both are harder to ignore.

If you opt for a support ticket anyway, and are logged as Guest (i.e. non-premium account), then:

  • Ticket type = “Special Question – basic account or Guest Login” -> “Account Issues” -> “Basic Account Issue” and select “The system says my account is Disabled or Suspended”
  • In the Disabled Issues field enter the highlights of the ban / suspension e-mail you received from LL. If you DON’T have the e-mail to hand, select I do not know why my account has been disabled or suspended

If you fax / write, make sure the fax / letter kick-off with the subject matter (“Appeal against account banning”) and give the basic information on the account in question as defined in (3.) and any information relating to the ban contained in any e-mail from LL.

Give your side of the story

Whether ticketing, faxing or writing set out clearly, concisely and politely the reasons why you thing the ban should be reversed.

  • If you think it may be a case of mistaken identity – say so; but try to provide evidence as to how it might have been
  • Don’t try to argue Linden Lab on the interpretation of the ToS – it is their ToS and they can interpret it as they please. You won’t get anywhere in polemic argument and you certainly won’t get unbanned. similarly don’t produce a diatribe on the “stupidity” of Linden Lab in all matters SL related, it’ll fall on deaf ears, and possibly rightly so
  • Don’t fudge the issue – if you can see the ban has arisen due to a genuine incident, own up. You may not have been in full possession of the ToS, you may been subjected to other pressures and acted out of character . Ignorance is never a good defence BUT – if LL detect that you are genuinely repentant on the matter, they may well be more willing to reconsider the ban
  • Don’t enter into long justifications for a wrongful action you know you committed (“well of course I orbited him and then littered his land with a gazilllion self-replicating prims that brought down the entire sim. But if you really knew him you know what a lowbrow, dirty stinking rotten son-of-a XXXX he is and how this has been coming for a long time and the little so-and-so has deserved it for so long now, in fact YYYY said the other day that if someone didn’t do something….”) – again, it won’t wash
  • Don’t try badgering LL for names and addresses of your accusers – they (rightly) won’t be forthcoming
  • Do be polite, get to the heart of the matter, put forward any evidence you have on the matter clearly and concisely and without resorting to threats, name-calling or intemperance

Remember: appeals are heard only once. If you blow it there is no supreme court or law lords you can further appeal to. Make what you have to say count, and be professional.

Give Linden Lab a fair chance to evaluate and respond to your appeal

Appeals do take time to be evaluated. Just because you’ve heard nothing back after 24, 48 or 72 hours doesn’t mean your situation isn’t being seen to, considered, or simply in the queue.

Don’t start e-mailing all and sundry in LL about your situation – it’ll be regarded as spamming the company and could extend a suspension (or even elevate it to a ban) or weigh against your appeal when it is reviewed.

If, on the other hand, you’ve not heard anything back from Linden Lab after two weeks or so, then you might want to contact them again, preferably via ticket, again including as much information as possible on the ban / suspension and the salient details of your appeal (when the ticket was raise / fax or letter sent, any reference numbers / ticket numbers, etc.).

And if they don’t unban you?

All you can do in this situation is evaluate for yourself what you want to do. You may want to start over, you may not want to; there may be other opportunities for you elsewhere. No-one else can really advise you or understand your circumstances better than you. That may sound hard, but it’s the truth.