Launching into political rants in global chat or hijacking the guild discussion to make everyone uncomfortable with views on election candidates is seen as a trolling tactic or a faux pas in most MMOs, but in Second Life, encountering politics is all but unavoidable. The game’s landscape has traditionally been dappled with giant ads vouching for or ranting against various figures, especially as US election seasons heat up.
That’s all changing as America heads into its 2020 elections. Linden Lab updated its official policy on in-game ad farms in late August, saying that no ad erected on land parcels may be “political in nature.” According to Second Life blog New World Notes, this was seemingly done after campaign ads were getting out of control in the game.
While some players worried that this set a troubling precedent for the game that would be hard to enforce (good luck putting a hard definition on “political,” LL), others celebrated the end of what they called “eyesores” that dominated parts of the virtual world’s landscape.
“Linden Lab holds core to its values a respect for diversity of opinion and free speech, which is abundant in Second Life. That’s why political content is not banned from privately-owned land and estates within Second Life. As with many social platforms, we do have community standards [link] that restrict hate speech, harassment and illegal content.
“However, there was a slight change in our policy that only impacts ‘ad farms’ and networked advertising in Second Life. For these types of ads, there are some newer content restrictions including a rule that ad content ‘may not be political in nature.’
“For context, this policy change does not impact anyone who wants to stick any political or advocacy signage in their virtual ‘front yard’ — whether it be an election sign, a BLM sign or rainbow flag. Rather, the change impacts only mass proliferation of advertisements in our Linden Lab-controlled public spaces.
“Thus, this policy applies to ‘networked advertising’ businesses in Second Life that dynamically distribute ads widely across multiple virtual world regions or small parcels. Further, it applies only to public areas on Second Life (known as Mainland) that are maintained by Linden Lab. In those public spaces, we have never allowed ‘ad farms’ (which are defined as advertising or content intended solely to drive an unreasonable price for the land parcel it is on and/or that exists to spoil the nearby visual environment for others). For reference, see our public policy at [link].”