Virtual terror strikes Second Life
by Glenn Chapman Sat Feb 24, 11:54 AM ETSAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - In an explosive display, virtual-world banes now mirror the havoc of the real one as terrorists have launched a bombing campaign in Second Life.
People controlling animated avatar members of a self-proclaimed Second Life Liberation Army (SLLA) have set off computer-code versions of atomic bombs at virtual world stores in the past six months -- with their own manifesto.
The SLLA claims to be an "in-world military wing of a national liberation movement" devoted to replacing the rule of Second Life creator Linden Labs with a democracy representing the nearly four million residents.
"As Linden Labs is functioning as an authoritarian government the only appropriate response is to fight," the SLLA said in a message on its website at http://secondlla.googlepages.com.
"When the SLLA succeeds in its aims it will disband and hand power back to the political wing of the movement."
Creative dissent is welcomed in Second Life as long as it doesn't interfere with the ability of other residents to enjoy the virtual world, according to San Francisco-based Linden.
Second Life said it stopped charging a tax on items created by residents after avatars fashioned in the images of American revolutionaries recreated the Boston Tea Party in the virtual world about three years ago.
Since then, website users adept at manipulating computer codes have engineered mischief including a "push gun" that blasted other avatars back when fired, according to Linden.
"We do the utmost to ensure the protection of creative expression, within certain bounds," Linden marketing director Catherine Smith told AFP on Friday.
"Ultimately, instances in which residents engage in simulated violence will have to be taken on a case-by-case basis."
The virtual bomb blasts in Second Life explode in hazy white balls, blotting out portions of a screen and battering nearby avatars, animated figures that are residents' proxies in the virtual world.
The disruptions are brief and do not cause lasting damage in Second Life, according to Linden.
Residents are given free rein in Second Life, as long as they don't harass or interfere with other avatars in what is referred to in-world as "griefing."
SLLA bombings have been viewed by Linden as "mock terrorism" done in fun to catalyze debate about the in-world power structure.
"We believe recent events involving SLLA protest lack malicious intent," Smith said. "Resident reaction to such attacks has been decidedly tongue-in-cheek."
The SLLA website demands that Linden give Second Life residents "basic rights" by going public and allowing each avatar to buy a share of stock at a set price.
In instances where residents feel harassed by the SLLA, Linden will dole out temporary banishment or other such penalties as outlined in the virtual world's written terms of service, according to Smith.