FTC Study on MMO’s Questionable Content and Kiddies

In March 2009 Congress asked the FTC to study virtual worlds and assess how easy it is for kids to experience ‘explicit’ content and what virtual world hosts are doing to try to prevent kids from experiencing ‘explicit’ content.

I love one of the first quotes from the Executive Summary of the Commission’s findings:

“This Report presents the results of the Commission’s inquiry, focusing on content found in online virtual worlds, and not on explicit content that children may encounter generally on the Internet”.

The commission was basically looking for some pretty extreme sex and violence. Here’s what I saw on the definitions tab for the database used to collect the information (which is included in the report).

Explicit Violent Content:

  • Animated Blood
  • Blood and Gore
  • Harm to Minors
  • Cruelty to Animals
  • Intense Violence
  • Suicide

Explicit Sexual Content:

  • Mature Humor
  • Nudity
  • Cruelty to Animals
  • Harm to Minors
  • Strong Sexual Content
  • Sexual Violence

Now arguably, most of this stuff really isn’t stuff that makes or breaks an MMO or virtual worlds. In fact most of the above are considered against the EULA or terms of use for most MMO’s and virtual worlds.

For example, Second Life, while allowing pretty much free reign for it’s creators on the main grid, draws the line at and removes anything sexual involving minors.

See the thing is that most of the ‘explicit’ content the commission found was seen in chat windows, bulletin boards, and forums. All of the explicit content found in virtual worlds with a stated audience of under 13 was text based (forums, chat, bulletin boards). Half of the explicit content found in virtual worlds with a +13 stated audience was text based, again forums, chat and bulletin boards.

Honestly, I think these sites have done quite a bit to clean up over the last 5 years or so. I mean seriously, I’ve seen smuttier stuff available on the internet for Sims 2 than I’ve seen in most games.

Hey don’t look at me like that, it comes up in search all the time.

The Committee had 5 recommendations for action and also recommended that the Virtual Worlds remain self regulated. Now for a government study, that’s actually pretty huge. Most of the time anything that has a ‘for the kids’ spin turns out to be some kind of crusade.

The reccomendations included buffing registration processes to keep kids out of games too big for their britches, keeping kids in areas that are safe for them if they are allowed into games where older kids or adults play (heh once again older kids),  dinking with profanity filters to keep naughty words out of chat (or as I call them phail filters), keeping a set of well trained moderators to look for and boot the naughty, and just having parents and kids get informed on what the dangers are and how to avoid them.

Woah a report that finally says “Hey Parents, read up on this and have a talk with your kiddies”. Now that’s refreshing.

Really the suggestions made sense and though I’m still a little cranky that it looks like people posting crap in forums, which probably tweaked the results a bit I think the Commission is right on. Don’t tell the folks at Massively though, they have a very different opinion (LINK).

To check out the FTC Report for yourself check out this LINK.