Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
5/12/2007
05:27 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
Commentary
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Internet Age Verification: Why Are We Kidding Ourselves?

I've singled out Linden Lab for criticism for its scheme to require users of Second Life to offer proof of age before accessing adult content. But Linden Lab is only following standard practice on the Internet, where operators of porn sites and the government agree to pretend that we can verify the ages of people who access adult content online by requiring them to submit electronic documents.

I've singled out Linden Lab for criticism for its scheme to require users of Second Life to offer proof of age before accessing adult content. But Linden Lab is only following standard practice on the Internet, where operators of porn sites and the government agree to pretend that we can verify the ages of people who access adult content online by requiring them to submit electronic documents.

This has been going on for more than a decade now, since the Communications Decency Act of 1996 tried to keep Internet porn away from minors.

Linden Lab's proposal is fairly typical of age-verifications schemes: Users submit a passport, driver's license, or some other government-issued documentation, and are then certified as being over 18 and permitted to access graphically sexual and violent content in Second Life.

What Linden Lab doesn't address is how to keep a kid who wants to see sex or ultra-violence from simply swiping Mom or Dad's credentials and using them. Any kid with the sneakiness to go behind their parents' back to access adult content will also be willing to borrow their parents' credentials. Kids lie about stuff. They break the rules. That's part of being a kid.

I know I made some of these points before but I'm getting increasingly frustrated by some of the discussion of this point in the Second Life community. Linden Lab has issued a post and two clarifications on its official blog and none of these posts addresses the point of how Linden Lab is somehow going to alter human nature and turn us all into a world of people who magically aren't going to lie about their age.

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