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.