By ZenMondo Wormser
There seems to be more rumor than facts floating around the grid about the Justice League Unlimited, a public service organization made up of members who dress up like comic book superheroes. This short piece is to address some of those perceptions and to shed light on how we actually do things. Though our mission includes education and charity work, this essay will concentrate on what is the most public
face of the JLU, peacekeeping.
Part the first: The situation we find ourselves in.
There are two documents that are the “law of the land” for conduct in the virtual world of Second Life. These are the Community Standards (CS) and the Terms of Service (TOS). Some TOS violations Linden Lab can detect by a technical means, but most of these are technology based and not necessarily related to in-world conduct.
Linden Labs does not have an in world police force to patrol the grid looking for TOS and CS violations, there is no “Officer Linden”. What the Lab has chosen to do is rely on the community of users to spot infractions of the TOS and CS and file Abuse Reports (AR) which then can be investigated by Lindens on the Resident Experience Support Inworld (RESI) team. Linden Lab has, wrongfully or not, put the burden of discovering violations of the rules to the residents of Second Life.
Part the Second: Some are in it for the lulz.
Troll. Goon. Griefer. The topic of articles in Wired Magazine, and the main reason an abuse report system is there in the first place. These characters don’t have a good day until they upset yours. They will assure you that you are taking Second Life “too seriously” and just need to relax. Their idea of pointing out this philosophy is to illicit an (usually negative) emotional reaction, a practice known as “trolling”. If you react, they “win” and they laugh about it or in their own term “get the lulz”.
On internet forums, this is usually done with the art or conversation or the posting of captioned photographs. In the virtual world of Second Life, they more often resort to a more visceral (yet still virtual) practice known as “griefing”. Griefing in short is any action taken to lessen the enjoyment of others, that is “causing grief”. In Second Life, this often takes the form of an “attack” which limits one’s ability to use Second Life by preventing you from moving (“caging”) from talking (“chat spammers”), hearing in world sounds (“sound spammers”), or viewing the environment around you (“particle spammers”). Other types of attacks can result in filling up a region with so many objects that moving or building becomes impossible (“replicators”) or methods for crashing a region logging everyone out, or crashing clients so that you are forcibly logged out of second life. A third type attack is a combination of the above designed to take up simulator resources and lag the sim, so that the use of the region becomes so slow so as to be impossible to use in any meaningful manner.
To create these types of attacks a certain level of technical acumen is required, but to use such attacks only the basest of technical skills are required – that is just the knowledge of how to use the Second Life client to move from place to place and to receive objects into and rez them from the inventory window. Soon griefers organized and developed networks and groups within Second Life to coordinate attacks and set up “weapon caches” where one could be outfitted with equipment that can be used in griefing incidents or the term the griefers use, “raids”.
Part the Third: Enter the Justice League.
It is for others to give the history of the founding of the League, I wasn’t there. I will tell you the situation we find ourselves in currently.
As I said in part the first, it is up to residents to discover and report CS and TOS violations, and as I explained in part the second, there are those who’s main interest in logging into Second Life is to break the rules. There needs to be a third part, those that will stand up and do what Linden Lab is not willing or able to do: actively patrol “trouble areas” and report CS and TOS violations in a clear, organized manner.
First, something the JLU is NOT. We are not vigilantes. We have no police powers. We do not act like law enforcement. We do not detain, arrest, or otherwise hinder those breaking the rules. We merely observe and report. We do nothing that no other resident of Second Life can’t do themselves. We are less a vigilante organization and more of a Neighborhood Watch. We have no powers to ban other avatars, and have no formal arrangement with Linden Lab.
In Linden Lab’s model I can only guess what they expected. They may have expected griefing to be targeted towards individuals who then would submit abuse reports. Large scale attacks would be seen by many and then reported by many. In practice, this does not seem to happen. Either most residents don’t care about reporting abuse, or more likely most residents don’t know how to report abuse. This is where the Justice League steps in.
Part the Fourth: A day on patrol.
Though patrolling is not our only peacekeeping activity, it is our most visible. Typically we patrol in areas where griefing is likely to happen, A prime griefing target has four elements, these are, that it has build rights so they may rez, scripts can run, so what they rez can wreak havoc, have open access so that they can actually be there and lastly have traffic so people will be affected by the attack. Outside of targeted communities, the most common scene of a griefing attack is a public sandbox, which usually has all four elements and no private estate management. Since it is public land, any response must come from the Lindens, and the Lindens won’t know about it unless somebody tells them.
The Justice League along with others provide the reporting necessary to alert the RESI team that something needs Occasionally a situation can be resolved without filing an abuse report at all. When we see something rezzed that violates the CS or TOS (usually something “broadly offensive”) the first part of a response is to contact the owner of the object and make them aware that they are breaking the rules and give them the chance to remove the offense before it has to go to an Abuse Report. I am reminded of one incident when I was a recruit and came across something broadly offensive. I contacted the owner about it, and he apologized. He had been acting out of grief of his own having a close friend that had recently died. He did not know how to direct his anger, and just a kind word from a stranger was all that was needed to resolve this situation.
Part the fifth:Tights? Seriously?
Probably the most misunderstood thing the JLU does is dress as superheroes. We have quite a few reasons for this.
In Second Life, one can choose every aspect of how one wants to appear in the virtual world. Unlike real life, the way one appears is completely decided by choice. In a world where one can appear as anything, how you appear can say something, as well as have strong symbolic context. We dress up as superheroes to symbolize being the good guys, here to serve and help like the characters found in comic books that wear spandex.
Wearing bright colors and flashy outfits also makes us natural targets to those who choose to attack. It is in our operating procedure to draw fire from others and make ourselves targets during attacks, putting ourselves between those who are trying to cause grief and those they want to be their victims. Lastly, we wear superhero costumes because it is fun. After all, if you are not enjoying your time in Second Life, why be there at all? We do what we do because we enjoy Second Life, and think everyone else that uses the service has the right to that enjoyment, and we oppose those that would make Second Life something where that enjoyment is taken away.
Meanwhile, back at the Watchtower…
Hopefully, you now know a bit more about our peacekeeping process, but that is only one part of the overall mission of the Justice League Unlimited. Not everyone in the league patrols, but we are all committed to making the grid a better place than how we found it. To this end we also have an education program where we teach seminars and classes. We, as a team, raise awareness and money for charities such as Project Jason to help the families of missing persons, and the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Second Life giving service, time, and funds to these and other worthy causes.
The Justice League does not solely exist to fight bad guys, nor do we revel in seeing other avatars banned due to what we report. We are here because we genuinely care for the virtual world of Second Life and the residents that use it.
Anyone can be a Hero, its not about what scripted gear you have, or what you wear across your chest, its about the choices you make. I bet someone you know may need a hero in their life. Be that hero for someone today.
The Justice League Unlimited is partnered with or works along side the following organizations, and others: