Freedom of Speech on Earth2
You probably hate being called names.
You probably also hate being harassed, mobbed, excluded, hurt, or abused. Do you know what you’d hate more? Not being able to exclude, not being able to mock someone for their behavior, not being able to engage in group satire, say what you’re feeling, or conduct yourself like you may need to. One of the major problems with rules against exclusion, hurting people with words, or otherwise doing things which might make someone feel bad is that you constantly have to change the rules to keep people from feeling offended; after all, there is no stable definition of offensive language or activities.
"Freedom of speech!" by dreamwhile is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Even well-meaning laws meant to allow policing of this sort of speech may be abused. Section 230 of the United States Code of Communications Decency provides immunity from prosecution to public platforms on the internet, and it does so on the basis that these public platforms will act like platforms, rather than publishers, which are explicitly liable for the things they publish, in one way or another. (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230) This website (E2.news) is a publisher. The owners, as of now, determine and then editorialize upon the articles you’ve read here. They have the right to change or do anything they want, and with that right comes the liability for the things they publish.
Platforms, however, are granted a singular right with respect to what they allow on their platforms, and that is the good faith clause. The good faith clause allows the platform to remove any content that the platform considers to be objectionable, independent of constitutional protections.
How can that be, you may ask? It provided the ability of what were at the time small platforms to grow without fear of liability and allowed them to regulate themselves. It was a good thing, and reflected the needs of the times—today, things are different.
After the removal of an acting President of the United States from multiple platforms and internet websites, all of which were acting at the time as primary communication forums for his constituents and rivals, providing an unfair and probably illegal advantage to the opposition, Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice, made clear that he believes that Section 230 reform is necessary to depose the very platforms responsible for this act of the power they now use to affect political speech in the now universal Internet communication platforms.
"Rise" by Vexnir on deviantart.com
And now, we come to Earth2.
Earth2 is the opportunity for a new field of engagement based on old principles; the worlds of VR Chat, Second Life, the fictional narratives surrounding platforms like the Metaverse of Snowcrash and Ready Player Ones “Oasis.” Earth2 is the synthesis of the real and unreal, and within that platform, some of us already hold tightly to reins which are built on nothing more than faith.
Second Life, as previously mentioned, is one such platform which informs what the world we will engage in should look like. The most surreal experience in an age of never-ending intrusion by the would-be nanny state of big tech is understanding that Second Life was the product of a different age, being first released June 23rd of 2003, when the internet was still free to us. When you contact Second Life, a company whose in game economy had a GDP of over $500,000,000 in 2015 to complain about harassment, bad words, or even outright racist attacks on other players, do you know what their response is? “Block them.”
It’s that simple. They don’t even attempt to control the games language, or police how people act on that individual, minute level. You can cover yourself in pornographic images, scream every obscenity at the top of your lungs, and demand the most absurd things from people in the game, and it’s their responsibility to block you. And that’s how things should be in Earth 2. Millions of dollars have been free to change hands over the course of the past 6 months, and with this milestone, we have blows to trade with censors and a conversation to have with the developers to ensure we exist in an environment which is positive for tile owners and later, regular players. We have to start negotiating and demanding the things we need for the game to succeed now, and while there are a handful of people who may want freedom of speech, there are so many more who don’t understand why this is so important, and who merely want the “freedom” not to be offended.
As major players in the community such as the E2 Alliance and Alpha Kingdom ready themselves to ratify Bills of Rights guaranteeing Freedom of Speech in their organizations, do you really want to see that progress upended by Earth2?
A note on expanded systems of community self-regulation: VR Chat, while perhaps more draconian, also makes similar use of a scheme to keep the moderation team from having to over-extend themselves. The block button is the primary tool of the player to maintain the experience they wish to have.
The only difference is that in VR Chat, there is a hidden social score which, while well intentioned, is pernicious. In VR Chat, there are several rankings: Visitor, New User, User, Known User, and Trust User, each with their own color schema—however, there is a hidden ranking. The social credit score of an individual user is tied with how many people interact with them, friend them, and block them.
With enough blocks and mutes, a person who was a Trusted User can be de-ranked all the way down to User, or even worse, they and their avatar can be automatically blocked by all users in the game, requiring users to individually unblock them.