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SCT #9 Federal Consortium For Virtual Worlds 2012

SCT #9 Federal Consortium For Virtual Worlds 2012

In Episode 9 of Social Change Technology Ren Reynolds talks to Paulette Robinson phd from the US National Defense University’s iCollege about this years’ Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds conference. It will be be held in Washington DC from 16th – 18th of May 2012, and over the internet via live streams and virtual world based meetings. The event is free to watch over the internet but it’s asked that you register.

This year’s conference features speaker from a range of backgrounds including Jesse Schell who some may know from his 2012 DICE talk Design Outside the Box and his recent book The Art of Game Design. Other speakers include Randy Hinrichs from the University of Washington, Michelle Fox from the US Department of Energy and Charles Wankel from St John’s University New York.

In the podcast, Ren and Paulette talk about the future of virtual worlds as enterprise tools in the context that most organisations are seeing a drastic reduction in travel budgets. One of the biggest challenges faced by large organisations such as the US Federal Government in the adoption of virtual worlds has been the security issues of accessing something on the internet with a proprietary application and protocol. The market has now changed so that there are a range of virtual world options that either sit ‘within the firewall’ or that use standard interfaces such as browsers. They also discuss the future of virtual words not as a thing apart from other applications or our lives but as things that we may slide in and out of.

If you are interested in this podcast you may also like From Ghana to Second Life – public diplomacy in the digital age our interview with Bill May about the US State Departments’ use of Virtual Worlds and social media. To make sure you catch all the episodes of  Social Change Technology subscribe on iTunes or via our RSS feed.

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Virtually Policy #2: From Ghana to Second Life – public diplomacy in the digital age

Virtually Policy #2: From Ghana to Second Life – public diplomacy in the digital age

In the second episode of Virtually Policy, Bill May talks with Ren Reynolds about using social media and Second Life in public diplomacy.

After 30 working in the US Government, NGO’s and the private sector, Bill is now working on international public diplomacy initiatives and a social-technology start up venture. He recently left his position at the US State Department as Director of the Office of Innovative Engagement (OIE) where he led public diplomacy initiatives using new media and social networks to engage the world in support of the President, the Secretary of State and key strategic policy objectives. Previously in the State Department, Bill worked with international exchange programs, within the State Department’s Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), where he received a Hammer Award from the Vice President’s office for developing an innovative information system, which improved the information flow between the USG and NGO’s.

In the podcast, Bill talks about using appropriate technologies and themes to engage with people across the globe and across cultures. Including the use of SMS and traditional media for President Obama’s visit to Ghana to bringing American and Egyptian students together in Second Life to create architecture.

<< Episode #1
Dutch Supreme Court on Virtual Theft
All Episodes Episode #3 >>
Virtual Currencies & Roach Motels

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US FTC Report to Congress “Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks”

In 2009 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provided a report to the US congress titled “Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks”. The origin of the report was H.R. 1105 Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 which became Public Law No: 111-8 on 11 th March 2009 which directed the FTC to create a report and a consumer alert.

The focus of the report was the content that those logged into a virtual world might see in particular so called ‘explicit content’ which included both ‘sexually explicit’ and ‘violently explicit’ – defined as both visual imagery and textual content (which could include in-world chat). The report covered virtual worlds them selves and related content such as forums.

The report looked at 27 online services (some such as IMUV would not typically fall within the definition of virtual world), including virtual worlds targeted specifically at adults e.g. Second Life and Red Light Centre.

The report “found at least one instance of either sexually or violently explicit content in 19 of the 27 virtual worlds surveyed” (p i), but noted that “Significantly, almost all of the explicit content observed in the child-oriented worlds occurred when the Commission’s researchers were registered as teens or adults, not when registered as children. In addition, most of the explicit content observed was text-based and found in chat rooms, message boards, and discussion forums” (p i).

The summary of the report reads as follows (p iii):

“As a result of its study, the Commission suggests that virtual world operators make certain enhancements aimed at reducing the risk of youth exposure to “explicit content, including:

    • Ensuring that the age-screening mechanisms virtual world operators employ do not encourage underage registration;
    • Implementing or strengthening age-segregation techniques to help ensure that minors and adults interact only with their peers and view only age-appropriate material;
    • Re-examining the strength of language filters to ensure that such filters detect and eliminate communications that violate online virtual worlds’ conduct standards;
    • Providing greater guidance to community enforcers in online virtual worlds so that they are better equipped to: self-police virtual worlds by reviewing and rating online content; report the presence of potential underage users; and comment on users who otherwise appear to be violating a world’s terms of behavior; and,
    • Employing a staff of specially trained moderators whose presence is well known in- world and who are equipped to take swift action against conduct violations.

Given important First Amendment considerations, the Commission supports virtual world operators’ self-regulatory efforts to implement these recommendations.

In addition, the Commission recommends that parents and children alike become better educated about the benefits and risks of youth participation in online virtual worlds. The Com- mission is committed to ensuring that parents have the information they need to decide which online virtual worlds may be appropriate for their children.”

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White Paper: Virtual Items and Public Policy

7 February 2011. Today the Virtual Policy Network has released a White Paper on Virtual Items and Public Policy. The Paper provides an overview of virtual items and virtual currency are – covering the spectrum from Xbox points to MMO characters. The paper defines what the key public policy interests are in virtual items, and provides a survey of the legal responses to issues involving virtual ‘goods’ from jurisdictions as diverse as China, Korea, Finland the US, citing a number of cases of virtual ‘theft’.

Released today as a .pdf under Creative Commons, the white paper will also be a living document held as part of the Virtual Policy Network’s database of resources. See the new Global Policy section of the site for details.

the Virtual Policy Network is looking for people to support this work, extend the number of countries covered and keep our database up to date with legislative changes impacting convergent media – if you would like to become an associate of tVPN or support our work in other ways please contact us at: info AT virtualpolicy DOT net.

Download Virtual Items and Public Policy (.pdf)

Virtual Worlds under the Americans with Disabilities Act

On the 8th of February 2010 Judge Percy Anderson of the United States District Central Court of California ruled in the case of Alexander Stern v. Sony Corp., et al (CV 09-7710 PA (FFMx)).

In summary Judge Anderson ruled that the American’s with Disabilities Act does not oblige Sony’s to facility access to their MMO EverQuest for those with Disabilities and specifically Sony does not have to provide any “auxiliary aids and services” to facilitate such access.

The case turned on whether EverQuest constituted a “place of public accommodation” as the American’s with Disabilities act only obliges access to such places, as the ruling states:

“Title III of the ADA prevents discrimination against the disabled in places of public accommodation:
No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to) or operates a place of public accommodation.”

The ruling notes that courts have established that this Title III applies only to certain physical spaces i.e. ‘bricks and mortar’; or to services that have some close link.

The case of access to Target.com (Nat’l Fed’n of the Blind v. Target Corp., 452 F. Supp. 2d 946, 951 (N.D. Cal. 2006)) was reference in the ruling but it was noted that this case fell under the act as there was a strong link between the services offred on the site and those in stores such that not having access to the web site could be seen as impeding access to some ‘goods, services […]’.

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American’s with Disabilities Act 42 U.S.C. § 12101

US FTC: Report on access and content of virtual worlds

The H.R. 1105 Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 which became Public Law No: 111-8 on 11 th March 2009 states in the notes to  ‘DIVISION D-FINANCIAL SERVICES AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2009′ the following:

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US FTC: Marketing of Violent Entertainment to Children

Since 2000 the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has provided reports to Congress on ‘Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children’. These report cover the Motion Picture, Music Recording and Electronic Game Industries.

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