The ethics of fighting griefers

Griefer pwnd - October 29, 2007

Griefer pwnd – October 29, 2007

From my beginning as a Peacekeeper in Second Life, I have lived by the philosophy that the Good Guys must abide by the Community Standards. Here’s the definition of Assault, item number three in the “Big Six:”

Most areas in Second Life are identified as Safe. Assault in Second Life means: shooting, pushing, or shoving another Resident in a Safe Area (see Global Standards below); creating or using scripted objects which singularly or persistently target another Resident in a manner which prevents their enjoyment of Second Life.

Here are the current rules of the group known as The Green Lanterns:

Basic Rules

  • No Drama
  • Have Fun
  • Don’t Be Evil

Mission: Patrol, Protect, Assist

Values: Courage, vigilance, respect, service, integrity, discretion

Applicants must be 180 days old to join the group.
Griefing is grounds for ejection from the group.
We are not here to make a profit, either personally or as a group.
We never attack anyone.

Or to put it another way, regarding Peacekeeper groups in general:

Q: I’m tired of griefers and I want to fight back against them. Can I join your group?
A: If you want to attack griefers, then a peacekeeper group is the wrong group for you. Peacekeepers never attack anyone in non-combat areas, even if they are being attacked. To do so would be a violation of section 3 of the Community Standards. There’s a term for residents who attack someone in a non-combat area: they’re called “griefers.”

So someone in a Peacekeeper group would not consider using violence in self-defense. From the Peacekeeper Q&A page again:

Q: Aren’t you guys just fascist Nazi Gestapo police wannabees? Who gave you permission to run around enforcing the Terms of Service?
A: Peacekeepers never take any enforcement actions. All we do is observe and report, the same thing that any resident can do. We’re like a Neighborhood Watch in Second Life. We send in the reports and the Lindens respond and do the enforcement. The only difference between us and a regular resident is that we are disciplined, and we train our members in how to write ARs. That and the spiffy spandex uniforms. 🙂

We observe and report, and the Lindens do the enforcement. Or at least that’s how it used to work. These days it appears that Linden Lab is no longer interested in enforcing the Terms of Service. Griefers attack residents all over the grid, and no matter how many Abuse Reports are written, the Lindens don’t respond. The residents have taken notice, and a storm of controversy is brewing.

Consider an analogous situation in Real Life. In the NBC television series Revolution, society has collapsed. Immediately after the collapse, the strong began to victimize the weak. Whoever had the biggest weapon would use it to win the fight and take the loser’s possessions. After some time, people started to come together in groups to provide for their own defense. Because there was no professional law enforcement available, people needed to enforce the laws on their own.

If Second Life society has broken down to the point where lawlessness rules the grid, then who will protect the residents? Several Peacekeepers have been discussing this, and suggesting that someone else needs to take action against griefers if LL won’t do it. One of the things I’ve alway enjoyed saying about Peacekeepers is this:

We stand between innocent residents and those who would do them harm.

In the past, that merely was a figure of speech, since our method of fighting griefers was to throw Abuse Reports at them until the Lindens removed them and their objects from the sim (or the grid). But now, if we decide to take physical action, the statement above may be more accurate than it was intended to be.

There is an theory called Situational Ethics that can be summarized as “sometimes other moral principles can be cast aside in certain situations if love is best served.” The love to which this refers is represented by the Greek word Agape, basically the love of humankind. The article gives the example of a woman discussing a moral question with a priest:

“I have a problem I’m confused about. You might help me to decide,” she explained… There was a war going on that her government believed could be stopped by some clever use of espionage and blackmail. However, this meant she had to seduce and sleep with an enemy spy in order to lure him into blackmail. Now this went against her morals, but if it brought the war to an end, saving thousands of lives, would it be worth breaking those standards?

So therein lies our dilemma. We can continue to write Abuse Reports, knowing that Linden Lab will not respond to solve the problem, or we can take action that is morally repugnant to us and attack the griefers to drive them away. Both choices are unacceptable. Do we allow our respect for the rules to prevent us from helping people, or do we use our love for protecting Second Life residents to disregard the rules we hold so dear?

Any opinions are welcome. What do you think?


About Hal Jordan
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