According to Business Week, Second Life has a crime problem. First there was the CopyBot saga (theft); then a worm which spread 'grey goo' throughout the virtual world, bringing the game's servers to a standstill (vandalism); and now it seems 'gangs' are forcing members out of public places (anti-social behavior):
It would seem the virtual world is facing a very real-world problem: crime. As more people have joined the global virtual community—it now boasts more than 1 million members—residents are grappling with how to secure property ownership and ensure public well-being.
However, Linden Lab (the game's creators) are reluctant to act like a real-world law enforcer, and instead hopes that the community will develop its own "local authorities" to deal with issues such as copyright and property ownership. Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale is reported as saying that residents have already set up 'Better Business Bureau-style associations to weed out bad players and that 'Linden Lab may also encourage the publication of blacklists of known copiers'.
This of course raises the thorny issue of accountability:
Yet the notion of grassroots justice in a virtual world raises a host of serious questions: On what authority would they act? What punishments can they mete out? And to whom would they be accountable? For example, if a shopkeeper is erroneously blacklisted, can he or she hold anyone responsible for lost sales? If so, who?
Mob rule, anybody?