Mommy, Can I Go to Pixel Planet?
The FTC has a new report out looking at explicit content in online "virtual worlds" like Second Life. Game Politics has a useful summary here. TLF's Joshua Fairfield suggests that, scary headlines aside, it actually suggests that online worlds are fairly tame, especially compared with what else is easily available on the web:
What initially strikes me about the report is the distance between how the report's being billed and what it actually says. The billing of the report—and thus the likely media tagline—is that the "FTC Report Finds Sexually and Violently Explicit Content in Online Virtual Worlds Accessed by Minors." But a more accurate statement would be "FTC Report Finds Surprisingly Little Sexually and Violently Explicit Content in Online Virtual Worlds Accessed by Minors, Especially Compared to What Minors Can Find on the Internet."
The Commission found at least one (really? that's all?) instance of explicitly violent OR sexual content in a significant percentage of the virtual worlds it examined—and that includes user chat, but in general it didn't find many such instances per world. So to be counted in the study as a virtual world that contains explicit violent or sexual content, the researchers just had to find one instance of chat in which someone said something violent or sexually oriented (which of course includes the scatalogical as well as the sexual). The point is, it appears to me that they went looking for anything and didn't find much. Far from being seen as an indictment of virtual worlds as dangerous for kids, this seems to me to be quite positive for virtual worlds, especially as compared to the internet at large.
You can read the complete FTC report here.