Do Virtual Communities Do More Harm Than Good?

“there are three jihadi terrorists registered and two elite jihadist terrorist groups in Second Life and they use the site for recruiting and training. This is on top of the Second Life Liberation Army. “


In light of the Second Life comment I made earlier, I thought I’d address this current news story that’s abuzz in the virtual world space. According to articles located in Slashdot, P2Pnet, and other techie news sources these virtual worlds like Second Life are becoming a hotbed for terrorist groups to train and enable sympathetics to become recruited.

As opinions shoot back and forth, I have to wonder what the other groups think about this. By other groups I mean people who use Second Life for profit and positive interaction. The real world implications are vast, but is there any way for people to stop this kind of open, virtual world extremism? There has already been a case of “virtual terrorism” in Second Life recently in efforts to make a point. But what happens when these issues cross over into the real world?

Real World Control over A Fake Environment

I mean no harm in saying fake, but in comparison to what life really is, Second Life is an alternate reality. As such is the case, how do you police a virtual world? As it stands, the debate over Internet governance weighs so heavily in favor of total decentralization that it would mean the same thing. Having any kind of policing in a world like Second Life would indicate that some form of government would have to exist. Who would this government be? Is Linden Labs responsible for not only governing the technological implementation and advancement, but also the social behavior of its residents?

And that’s not the end of the problem either. At this point the biggest draw to Second Life has been its free and open format. It allows people to access and do whatever they want, within the technical limitations of the environment. This culture has developed so far that any truncation of “virtual rights” would alienate the users as a whole. How would Linden Labs or anyone else ever enforce restrictions? How true are these allegations anyway?

Behind a Virtual Mask

This isn’t the first time that things like this have popped up about terrorism on the Internet. Terrorist groups have been known to assemble on the Internet as a form of cheap and effective communication. We have such a hard time cracking down on kids taking the new Avril Lavigne song, so it makes sense that extremists see this crack in the armor as a chance to exploit and promote their ideals.

So what does this say about people using the Internet to mask who they are and be something else? The virtual community provides so much positive and forward thinking but also engenders some of these large problems? Does this anonymity lend more to negativity than it does to progress and positive global thinking?

It’s a shame that there are a few that ruin it for the whole, but issues like these don’t go unnoticed. As the electronic frontier gets pushed further into unrecognizable territory, opponents speak out more in defense to the electronic community. Yet, the modern rush doesn’t slow down. Government leaders all over are petitioning for a stranglehold on these technologies in order to regulate just how much of this extreme information gets tossed around. On the other hand, the people speak out against government in defense of their rights. Techies are typically afraid that ulterior motives propel governments to seize large scale communication rights for their own gain.

As for you and I, how do we maintain the right to participate and live anonymously with strangers? Is there ever going to be a way to facilitate positive global communication with strangers without the demons inside coming out of the small minority who want to use it for negative gain?

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One Response to Do Virtual Communities Do More Harm Than Good?

  1. Pingback: Real Life Making Second Life all Stuffy? | My Disguises

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