Bob Resident said, ‘You’re the greatest!’

Now that I have my own weblog here, I can gradually go back and take every halfbaked comment I’ve ever made on anyone else’s weblog, and develop it into an entire posting here. What a great idea, eh? :)

Okay first one. Imagine the follow exchange in IM:

Fred Innis: whoa! do you know that person, sexygurl177 Innis there?
Sue Innis: Don’t think so, why?
Fred Innis: she just called me an asshole in IM!
Sue Innis: Youre kidding what did she say?
Fred Innis: she said “u r a asshole!!!”

The question for us today, students, is: who if anyone violated the ToS here?

Okay, yep, assuming Fred is telling the truth, sexygurl177 probably violated the Community Standards (which are included by reference into the ToS), where they forbid “[c]ommunicating or behaving in a manner which is offensively coarse, intimidating or threatening…”.

The surprising thing here is that, at least in some interpretations, Fred also violated the ToS, when he told Sue what sexygurl177 said. This is because, also in the CS, the section on “Disclosure” says that “sharing conversation logs without consent” is “prohibited in Second Life and on the Second Life Forums”, and a page in the Knowledge Base (which is very hard to link to, but this link might work) gives us this gloss:

Sharing or posting a conversation inworld or in the Second Life Forums without consent of all involved Residents is a violation of the Terms of Service… “Conversation” means text that originally came from Second Life chat or Second Life instant messages. If it’s totally unattributed, then it isn’t considered disclosure.

So there we are, right? Odd as it seems, sexygurl177’s IM not only called Fred a asshole, but also magically created in Fred an obligation not to quote that statement within SL or the SL Forums. Presumably (although it doesn’t seem to actually say this anywhere) Fred would be allowed to quote her IM if he wanted to file an Abuse Report, but he voilated the ToS when he quoted it, attributed, to Sue.

Except maybe not. Because the very next sentence after the above says:

Additionally, Residents are not punished for sharing or posting a comment such as “Bob Resident said, ‘You’re the greatest!'”

So comments “such as” that may still be a ToS violation (it doesn’t actually say it isn’t), but at least residents aren’t punished for sharing them.

Now the question is this: is “sexygurl177 said, ‘u r a asshole'” relevantly the same kind of comment as “Bob Resident said, ‘You’re the greatest!'”.

And I have absolutely no idea. Both are short. Both are reporting that someone expressed an opinion about someone. One is positive and one is negative. One is reporting a comment that is probably a ToS violation itself, the other isn’t. Just which of these features the author of that Knowledge Base article intended to capture by saying “a comment such as”, I honestly don’t know.

I have myself had the experience of being randomly cursed out in IM in a public place, and I copy and pasted it to a couple of friends nearby just because it was bizarre, and because I thought they might be able to suggest an explanation for it. I find utterly ridiculous the notion that, by cursing at me in IM, the curser automatically created in me an obligation not to quote him to anyone. I expect that eventually the rules, both de facto and de jure, will evolve on just what it’s okay to share and what it isn’t. These rules might be based on the same kind of “expectation of privacy” principles that we sometimes see in RL law. Someone whispering obscenities to me uninvited probably does not have an expectation of privacy there; someone engaging with me in a long conversation about the personalities quirks of a mutual friend might have one. But clearly current ToS has a long way to go.

(And don’t get me started on the rest of the horribly ambiguous “Disclosure” section of the CS! That’ll have to wait for another long wordy posting.)

Thanks to an ancient post of Chestnut’s for having gotten me to do the original looking-up-stuff and thinking about the issue.

4 Responses

  1. Sure the TOS has a long way to go before it is perfect or even good, especially as it is the place where IP rights are protected. On the issue of IM privacy it seems fairly easy to comply even with the ambiguity in the language. If you don’t cut and paste IMs you have not violated the TOS. Simple.

  2. My problem is that I’m not really willing to accept that restriction. :) If someone randomly IMs vile things to me out of the blue, I do *not* feel obliged to never show them to anyone inworld, whatever the ToS says. And I don’t really think the ToS authors want to forbid that. I guess that’s why I feel moved to drone on about it so…

  3. I think if the IM is that vile (and it was) I would AR the sender in the (vain) hope that LL would do something about the clear violation of Community Standards.

    Passing the IM around to your friends does nothing to reprimand with the offender. It will get you sympathy, which (given that the person in question is a sicko) you deserve without reservation.

    Of course, you could get that sympathy by describing what he said in chat and in IM (without cutting and pasting it) and not violate TOS. It just seems unnecessary and in the unlikely event of a water landing — I mean in the unlikely event that LL did anything about the incident you dilute your own case for no reason.

    So In this case, you might AR the person and say, “Community standards violation!” He retorts, “TOS violation!” LL concludes “Kids? Play nice.” If you don’t pass the IM around your AR says “Community standards violation!” and maybe, just maybe LL responds, “Correct! Temporary suspension to the cornfield!”

    I know. I am a dreamer.

  4. Yeah, you are. :) Nothing wrong with that. You have good dreams.

    In my case sympathy from my friends was much more valuable than (zero) action from LL, so I had no real thought of ARing. And a mere description of the vileness wouldn’t have conveyed nearly the lunatic juiciness of the real thing. :) Others are of course urged to use their own judgement (I’m sorry, spellchecker, but “judgement” needs two “e”s) in deciding just what the ToS means, and how to behave as a result.

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