Sundry thoughts on recent bans in Second Life

From Pixabay
From Pixabay

Note: Linden Lab has provided the Better Business Bureau with a breakdown of the permanent ban process, which is available for public viewing.

On  Sunday, February 21st, I posted an article concerning SL content creator Teager (Breeder’s Choice and Teegle brands). In it I covered the news that Teager was asking people not to buy from her Marketplace store, on account of her accounts having been banned from Second Life.

Some 24 hours after posting that article – and approaching a week after she first started encountering problems, Teager had her accounted released. As I noted in my update to my original post on the situation, the news first came in a * Breeder’s Choice * group announcement, via Teager’s husband, AgentEightySix in SL:

There is news regarding Teager. She has been unbanned. She’s not home right now, she got the email on her phone, but I’m sure she’ll be on a little later. For everyone who donated at the donation box, thank you.  No need to do any more.  We’ll take it down tonight, and everything can get back to normal around here.

The following day, Tuesday February 23rd, it was confirmed another creator initially banned under similar circumstances, WarmAnimations Lisa, had also had her ban rescinded.  In both cases, warnings were given about the risk of further banishment in the event of a re-offence.

The notifications that their bans had been lifted was also the first time both Teager and WarmAnimations Lisa were actually told why they had been banned: they had used images within one or more Marketplace listings which were deemed to be “not acceptable” – the actual items specified in the listings did not appear to be in question.

While objecting to an image in a listing, even one rated as Adult, may sound odd, it is worth remembering that there are subjects which can still be deemed as offensive or disturbing even among those who have consciously opted to enable the Adult content rating when browsing the Marketplace. This is something content creators should keep in mind when preparing their listings; the Adult rating isn’t necessarily a carte blanche allowance to post absolutely anything.

But that said, for the Lab to immediately respond with an outright ban, as was the case with Teager and WarmAnimations Lisa (and possibly others) without warning nor explanation, is, in five words: excessive  and completely heavy-handed.

Even with the best will in the world people make mistakes. They’re not wilfully breaking the policy; they’re not attempting any kind of subversion, they have simply erred. This can happen even when they’ve read all the standards, requirements and policies related to something. As such, there are cases where people should be given – for want of a better term – the benefit of the doubt before a hand starts reaching for the ban hammer.

As it is, Linden Lab can remove any content at any time from both the Marketplace and / or in-world at any time, might it not have been better to go that route first with these situations? That is, remove the content causing the problem; communicate with the affected content creators and explain what has been done, why it has been done, and issue any appropriate warning (if necessary) on the possible consequences of future transgressions.

Such an approach achieves a number of beneficial goals for the Lab:

  • It allows the offending images to be removed without fuss
  • It offers a clear explanation of what has been done and why
  • It allows said content creators to consider any other items they have listed with images which might be considered “not acceptable”, and thus replace said images
  • It may allow word to spread through the content creation community without undue rancour or drama, so that others with possibly questionable images in their listings might also replace them, removing the need for future actions on the Lab’s part
  • It demonstrates that Linden Lab recognises that people can, and do, make mistakes, and that most are prepared to accept their error if it is properly explained to them
  • It demonstrates consideration without removing the explicit understanding that there are policies which must be adhered to, and that repeated violations won’t be tolerated.

Obviously, there are times when it is appropriate / necessary for the ban hammer to be wielded within Second Life. no-one is denying that. But equally, there are times when it should not be seen as the immediate and preferred tool of action when there are other means to initially handle a situation. This is a balance those at the Lab with access to the ban tool seem to have problems in understanding.

Over the past couple of years, the Lab has been investing time and effort in rebuilding users’ confidence in itself on several fronts. If nothing else, an over-reliance on bans as first response to policy transgressions when there are potentially other ways to deal with matters, risks unravelling at least some of that restored confidence.

As it is, when looking specifically at both Teager’s and WarmAnimations Lisa’s situation, it’s very hard not to reach the conclusion they were handled in a manner akin to the image at the top of this article.