Saturday, 12 September 2009

Blue Mars and Adult Content

In a recent interview with Tateru Nino on the Massively website, Jim Sink, CEO of Avatar Reality, the company behind Blue Mars, had this to say on the subject of Adult content:

We don't allow securities markets, banking services, content that depicts minors or apparent minors engaged in sexual activity, or content that depicts torture.

Regarding Mature and Adult content, it certainly is a hot-button issue. As such, we're moving very carefully. Before we conclude how to proceed with mature content, we need to see how our community develops and to think carefully about how we balance the issues at hand. For now, we don't allow "mature and adult" content.

Blue Mars have only explicity excluded ageplay and torture, and we can expect those exclusions to be in the TOS.

However, on the general subject of adult or mature content, Blue Mars needs to assess the demand for this kind of content. This is what Second Life had to say about the amount of Adult content on their platform:

Based on our research, we estimate that around 2-4% of content on the mainland would be considered Adult according to our current thinking on defining that. For all of Second Life, our content research shows it is around 5%. In other words, 95% of Second Life either mature or PG.

So, should Blue Mars dispense with Adult content and keep BM family-friendly, and let those that want it hang out in SL?

There is also the problem of screening. How do you prevent a teen or pre-teen from visiting Blue Mars cities that have adult content. Should the screening be done by Avatar Reality or by the City developer? Screening has been an ongoing problem in Second Life, and is still far from foolproof.

Then Blue Mars has to think about the effect of Adult content on their major educational and scientific players. How would the Smithsonian and National Geographic and the the various schools projects feel about sharing space with the BDSM community? Can Blue Mars afford the kind of bad publicity that dogged Second Life?

And what about Mature content? Should residents of Blue Mars be banned from engaging in sexual activity within their own virtual homes? Should Blue Mars allow activity that is legal in real life and only ban that sort of activity that is illegal in real life? That sounds like a nice compromise, but then the subject of jurisdiction crops up. Illegal 'where' exactly? What is legal in one State in the US may be illegal in another (brothels in Nevada versus brothels in Salt lake City, for example), there are different ages of consent in different States too. And to what extent should Avatar Reality take into account the various laws in countries around the world where they expect many of their residents to come from?

This is a huge minefield, and I am not surprised that they are taking the cautious approach.