Cyber Crime Earns Guardian Dog by Heavy Writer

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CALL FOR EXPERIENCES FROM READERS

by Heavy Writer, Sim Street Journal

In my long virtual life, I’ve seen a lot of good things happen and a lot of bad things too. I have seen smiles and tears; I have seen kind people and mean people. We may like to believe that a virtual world is ideal and can make us invulnerable, that we can do whatever we like, that freedom has no limits. But it isn’t that way!

First, in Second Life®, we must play by the rules Linden Lab designed. Second, we get to follow rules other residents design. If we rent land, we must follow a covenant. If we go to a club, we have to follow that club’s rules. If we join a role play community, it comes with another set of rules, and so on! We are not always happy with rules, but rules are necessary in a civilized society.

In real life, we like to believe that people who abuse power, who cheat, who make rules designed to take advantage of others (just see dictatorship governments), or even break rules, ends up in jail. Justice has a long hand that will reach to them. Society’s rules are guarded and controlled, the mischief makers, once caught, are subject to severe punishment.

Virtual life mirrors real life. LL guards the general rules, but they have less tools for enforcing those rules. Perpetrators get banned today with one avatar, and they return again tomorrow with a different one, then continue to create trouble. LL can’t really fulfill that task.

In real life, when authorities fail the task to enforce law, the press takes a position. The populace is informed. People talk, protest, and organize. In severe cases, they riot. This is why the press is called “The guardian dog of democracy.”

Sadly virtual world press can’t be called that! In SL publications, (with very few exceptions), the portrayals are always glamorous, everyone is talented, all residents are great people, and all do amazingly good deeds. Those older on the grid know that these claims are half truths. There are also cheaters and perpetrators of cyber crimes. There is a lack of talent and there is an abundance of drama. We are not informed much about the dark side. Drama is usually sorted between victim and abuser in a chat, that ends up with a blocking and a report to LL.

I’m not talking about petty offenders (spammers and intruders). They are just buggers that we can get rid of easily by banning them on land or by the sim owner if we are a tenant. Most of us don’t even report these minor conflicts to LL because it is too much trouble and they will just come back with a different avatar.

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There are bigger crimes in SL that many know little about. First, a big scandal burst in 2006 when a new software nicknamed ‘CopyBot’ created concerns for content creators. Then there were the days when SL allowed gambling, resultingin money laundering crimes. Scott Michels reported in 2008 for ABC News: “Kimberley Jerningan, 33, was arrested for allegedly attempting to abduct her virtual ex-boyfriend, whom she’d originally met in the online game of Second Life.” The real crime list from the virtual world continues with a 2011 FBI Annual Report On Gangs Activity where SL is mentioned as a platform that can provide an environment for criminal gangs to spread propaganda, recruit and train new members. The FBI takes this seriously, and they even have recruited agents in SL. Just in, December, we find out that NSA conducts operations in SL.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more criminal activities reported by less reliable sources on blogs and forums. Anyway, this short filmstrip reveals that both in the virtual world, and on the general web, cyber crime is increasing. Real life authorities are getting worried and are getting involved more and more. Yet, while they deal with major crimes, the residents are the cannon meat for extortion, harassment, scamming, stalking, and so on.

Sim Street Journal invites the victims of criminal virtual world activities to drop a notecard at the SSJ office mailbox in Innu 82,36,1650. or e-mail to simstreetjournal@gmail.com. Your experience, which can remain confidential, will help us learn together how to protect ourselves.

We wish to conduct an investigation into cyber crime defense, but we need the help of readers because we are short in both time and man power for such a challenge. Yet, through each experience collected, each lesson learned, through aware- ness shared, we can make the virtual world a safer place! —Heavy Writer

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