You can argue they are right,
but it shouldn’t be this black and white.
In second life your account can be deleted at any time. When signing the TOS, you consent to this. If for some reason Linden Lab gets it in their head, (say because you have leftist sympathies, or you write a certain politically sensitive blog, or you have some kind of unorthodox sexual lifestyle, or maybe you vote for a certain political party, or you lobby against a certain cosmetic product that also sponsors Linden Lab) that you are a danger to Second Life, they can also ban you. They can do this without explanation or advance notice.
11.4 We may suspend or terminate your Account(s) to protect the best interests of Second Life and the Second Life community or if we believe you pose an unacceptable risk to the Second Life community.
We may suspend or terminate your Account if we determine in our discretion that such action is necessary or advisable to comply with legal requirements or protect the rights or interests of Linden Lab, the Second Life community or any third party. We may suspend or terminate your Account(s) if we learn, or in good faith believe, that you are a Registered Sex Offender, that accessing Second Life may violate a condition of parole or probation, or that you for any other reason may pose what we deem to be an unacceptable risk to the Second Life community.
If, strictly hypothetically speaking, Linden Lab would be talking with a buyout partner, and that buyout partner had some kind of reason to want me banned, I’d get banned. Maybe I had a record of in the past pirating Microsoft products a lot. If Linden Lab would feel a sudden urge to ban me, they’d have to offer me no explanation and if I protested publicly they could invoke the above clause, offering no other comment, leaving the strong suggestion open publicly I would be suspected of being “a registered sex offender”.
I have invested at this time an amount of value into Second Life products exceeding 10.000 Dollars. My avatar name is in itself a brand name. I have a wikipedia page with the same. I have used in effect the medium of Second Life as a therapeutic vessel for self-actualization and self-realization. Yet I find myself in a virtual reality where my host reserves the right to murder the manifestation of my existence, and in effect cancel the opportunity to engage with dozens of loved ones and friends in a meaningful manner, and take away hard won properties on what might be a whim. Or griefing by third parties. Or unknown external manipulation or political pressure I have absolutely no control over.
Linden Lab would argue – you are a host in our world and you must follow the rules of our world. There is an argument to this, and there is some validity in this idea – but the fact of the matter is that out of hundreds of thousands of second life users there is a percentage (like me) that is so thoroughly fucked up, that Second Life has in itself become medicinal, therapeutic and a lifesaver. I am not exaggerating in this. To put it bluntly, maybe I wouldn’t (probably) slit my wrists if I was banned, but I’d almost certainly end up in clinical psychiatric care, probably one or months of hospitalization if it were to happen. Sure, you can label me as ‘fucked up’, mock me and dismiss me, but I don’t regard the situation much different as a severe heart patient finding a use for an otherwise mundane product or service and then becoming effectively dependent on this product, to the point that cancellation of the product would cause the heart patient to be literally in danger of her or his life.
I am not the only one. I asked around, and some people made an estimate that if “second life folded’, or they avatar would be ‘permabanned’, they would probably be at risk of suicide. So in effect Linden Lab has created a product of which can be said two things.
1 – this product is an addictive piece of software and it endangers people’s lives.
2 – this product is a cognitive tool that helps people with psychiatric problems to developing coping tools, but carries the price of these people developing a severe dependency on it.
I now potentially can see thousands of bloggers respond with contempt and scorn and disdain. Probably american bloggers, from cultures more rich in ‘social Darwinist’ popular culture. To the people who’d mock me for making that category statements, I say in advance – they can go fuck themselves.
This situation won’t do. I cannot and will not accept that I am at the mercy of the capricious nature of Linden Lab. Maybe at one time I somewhat trusted Linden Lab, but in the last year I have seen such a degree of incompetence, such a fickle management style, such rude and confused service, such bewildering strategical choices that I now find myself in fear. I am an outspoken person from a culture far more free and outspoken that US culture. Where I live I am far more free to self-express or live than anywhere in the US. I was raised on a diet of provo. Hence I find myself in fear. I fear that Linden Lab, or externalities beyond my control, may take away my avatar. I see friends avatars (and tens of thousands of US dollars of their virtual ‘belongings) being taken away from them, on reasons I cannot ascertain or understand, and all that adds to my fear.
I am aware that these statements may trigger a detached, cynical, aloof attitude in those of Linden Lab that might read it. They might retort by saying “stick to the rules and you’ll be fine“, but that’s not enough for me. I know griefing tools that would allow me to implicate another avatar, with very little chance of capture, and have that avatar banned. In a matter of days. If someone would want me banned and had the ingenuity, I’d be gone in a week even if I was snow-white with innocence. I’d have no means of appeal. Worse, I’d probably be in an emotional state where I would be in effect unable to effectively mount an appeal, or protest my banishment from SL.
I am simply too vulnerable, even if I followed the rules.
Considering all this I have considered literally backing up my inventory, i.e. all of my inventory. There are ways to do that (and unlock all the textures, features,m scripts, sculptures, animations, etc in my inventory as transferrable, copy, fully mod) even if they are not TOS compliant, but if I’d used them, I’d probably end up banned shortly after. So taking that step would carry its own severe escalatory risk.
This situation is unacceptable to me.
As a consequence I’d want Linden Lab to implement a substantially means of protecting a category of avatar accounts such as mine. I can imagine a far more robust avatar rating, where an avatar might find itself confined to a a handful of sims, in case it were banned. I’d say that in some cases Linden Lab should permanently refrain from permanently banning certain avatars, and state so as part of their product guarantee. I’d say so that Linden Lab might consider implementing an ‘appeals’ procedure, maybe even a court of inquiry, or ‘judgement by peers’, or even a special ‘protected avatar account’.
I can envision an ‘avatar status’ where Linden Lab can attribute a rating to avatars, that more or less makes the avatar more credible in the eyes of others, and as well acts as some sort of buffer against capricious bans. Maybe some kind of non-monetary voting system (wuftie) would help in this. We had something like that in the old days. I can envision a user like Gwynneth get a Triple-AAA rating in second life, which would serve as some sort of public acknowledgement of her good character in the eyes of Linden Lab. Maybe Linden Lab might do well to make its considerations more transparent on a new page ‘avatar account status’ on your profile, with an option to make it public for all to see.
Whatever the case, Linden Lab must understand that what they offer isn’t just some hamburger you as a client can choose to get or not get. This has become a cognitive tool that is not merely enriching lives, it is also literally saving and empowering lives. Sure it is addicting to some. But ask yourself – what would those ‘some’ have without it? I mean – the world out there isn’t such a paradise. Second Life acts as the new dream state, and it allows us to deal with the shit of reality. This stuff is becoming very very important to me, and many other people out there.