Friday, January 15, 2021

Trump Twitter Ban Raises Questions About Roles and Responsibilities of Social Media

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was about a week ago on Friday January 8 that President Donald Trump was permanently banned by the social medial platform Twitter. The reasons given by Twitter on it's official announcement were "recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter." The ban got attention for a number reasons. One was that no previous President had relied so much on the social media platform, or anything similar. His numerous, and unfiltered, tweets to his followers, sometimes "dozens a day," were a big part of how he communicates with the public. While Trump's separate Presidential account remains, the takedown of his personal account meant the loss of his most frequently used means to communicate.

While Trump's opponents supported the move, many saying the ban should have been done a long time ago, a number have expressed criticism and reservations. Conservatives and populists accused Twitter of taking sides in political debate. Libertarians expressed concerns about free speech issues, especially as like or dislike him that Trump as US President is a major figure in US Government while he is in office.

A number of Trump's statements over Twitter were flagged for misinformation, notably some during the election, which itself touched off controversy. Various civil rights groups have criticized Twitter and other platforms for allowing Trump to air conspiracy theories and false claims. But the American Civil Liberties Union, while critical of his statements as well in the past, also expressed concern about the ban, saying while they understood the reasons for the ban, "the unchecked power" of major social media "should concern everyone."

Katie Fallow, a senior staff attorney at Columbia University's Knight First Amendment Institute, felt the Trump Presidency has brought about new questions about the roles and responsibilites for social media platforms such as Twitter for both people in government and those advocating for free speech. "Some people have called for (applying) antitrust law to the social media platforms on the idea that there's essentially a monopoly on the speech environment, but those are untested legal waters," she spoke.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock felt the Twitter ban, in addition to bans by Facebook and Instagram, raise a "very big question" about how social media is regulated, commenting the bans were "taking editorial decisions." He went on to say while the scenes in Washington DC, "were terrible - and I was very sad to see that because American democracy is such a proud thing," he added, "But there's something else that has changed, which is that social media platforms are making editorial decisions now. That's clear because they're choosing who should and shouldn't have a voice on their platform."

Other officials in Europe expressed concerns. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the ban "problematic." French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire condemned Trump's "lies," but also spoke out against the ban, "What shocks me is that Twitter is the one to close his account. The regulation of the digital world cannot be done by the digital oligarchy."

Currently, social media companies are protected under US Federal law by Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications and Decency Act, which shields platforms from being held liable in court for the speech of users, unlike traditional media companies. But critics feel considering how much has changed since then and how big Facebook and Twitter have become, it's past time for a change. Trump and some of his supporters have called for a repeal of the law. But Fallow stated such a repeal would end up hurting him and other populists as the law shields Twitter and other social media of responsibility for allowing them to use the platforms.

Jack Dorsey, the man in charge of Twitter, would issue a series of statements on Wednesday Jan 13, feeling the ban was "right," but also "dangerous," with potential consequences for free speech later on.

I do not celebrate or feel pride in our having to ban @realDonaldTrump from Twitter, or how we got here. After a clear warning we’d take this action, we made a decision with the best information we had based on threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter. Was this correct?

I believe this was the right decision for Twitter. We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety. Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.

That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications. While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.

Having to take these actions fragment the public conversation. They divide us. They limit the potential for clarification, redemption, and learning. And sets a precedent I feel is dangerous: the power an individual or corporation has over a part of the global public conversation.

The check and accountability on this power has always been the fact that a service like Twitter is one small part of the larger public conversation happening across the internet. If folks do not agree with our rules and enforcement, they can simply go to another internet service.

This concept was challenged last week when a number of foundational internet tool providers also decided not to host what they found dangerous. I do not believe this was coordinated. More likely: companies came to their own conclusions or were emboldened by the actions of others.

This moment in time might call for this dynamic, but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet. A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same.

Yes, we all need to look critically at inconsistencies of our policy and enforcement. Yes, we need to look at how our service might incentivize distraction and harm. Yes, we need more transparency in our moderation operations. All this can’t erode a free and open global internet.

Twitter has also been criticized on the move on the grounds that while Trump's account is gone, some very undemocratic world leaders still have theirs. But Twitter has suspended some of these accounts on occasions in the past for violating it's rules. In another example of social media enforcing it's rules, a few days ago Facebook shut down several accounts liked to the Ugandan government.

President Trump is due to step down on Wednesday January 20. Joe Biden, whom also has a personal Twitter account, was given another one as President-elect, "Folks — This will be the account for my official duties as President. At 12:01 PM on January 20th, it will become @POTUS. Until then, I'll be using @JoeBiden."

Sources: BBC News, ABC News, Twitter, Politico

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Whatever Happened to Linden Lab's Blocksworld?

By Bixyl Shuftan

Longtime residents may remember the days of Rod Humble when Linden Lab's strategy then was to offer more than just Second Life, but either developing or buying other products they hoped would make up for it's then declining income from the virtual world. Among them was Blocksworld, which the Lab acquired in January 2013. Described as "a mix of Lego and Minecraft," it was clearly aimed at younger users than Second Life. It did have one advantage to the virtual world then, it was playable on tablets. 

By the middle of the year, Blocksworld was doing pretty good. The game in August 2013 was doing downloaded at a rate more than Candy Crush. It probably wasn't making nearly as much as the game, which was described to be making $880,000 a day at the time, as it was a top download in just the "Family" category. But it was the most successful of Linden Lab's products other than Second Life, and the only such product of the "Shared Creative Spaces" era that would remain at the end of 2014.

In 2019, Blocksworld was still listed as one of Linden Lab's products and was available in Steam. But a recent look at shows both Second Life and Tilia, but no sign of Blocksworld. And checking the Steam page, there was the following message: Notice: At the request of the publisher, Blocksworld is no longer available for sale on Steam. Checking Wikipedia, "As the game got downplayed by Linden Lab, the game remained without updates since early 2018, then the servers were fully shut down on June 17, 2020."

So what happened to Blocksworld? There was an effort by Linden Lab too make something of it. In March, they announced an update that allowed players to sell content for virtual coin and allowed people to cash the coin in for real-life currency. According to a page in "The Fall of Blocksworld," there was also, "a contest to see who could build the best world based off of a theme, determined beforehand by the Linden Labs Employees," from about once a week to once a month, at least until 2017. The Lab also made a deal with Hasbro and people had access to "My Little Pony" and "Transformers" sets, and build characters from the shows.

Unfortunately, the Lab was being described as lax when it came to enforcing content rules. Rival groups began forming and started engaging in "wars" in which a group would build a world showing another group as getting clobbered. There were also players that were uploading obviously adult content. According the the page, Linden Lab didn't act on them at first, and the result was people leaving due to the drama and the family-environment tainted. Eventually it did start to ban adult content uploaders, but their solution to the "wars" was to limit players to building one world a day and just three models a day. The Lab also stopped the building contests and didn't renew their license to allow MLP and Transformer content. The Lab was also described as laying off the one employee whom was good at keeping the place from getting hacked and loaded with questionable content. Then came a glitch that kept people from logging into the computer version of Blocksworld and caused problems with the tablet app.

Over time the page stated, the game had dropped in popularity to the point the Lab decided it was a lost cause, and that was the reason it was shut down in June 2020 with no announcement.

It should be noted that "The Fall of Blocksworld" was the only page I found with reasons as to why Blocksworld was closed. If there's any players from the place that saw what happened, your comments are welcome

Source: Wikipedia, Linden Lab, Fandom,

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, September 7, 2020

Sansar Update: A New Direction, Torley, And Account Issues

The Newser hasn't written much about Sansar, the "next generation virtual world" since Linden Lab sold it to Wookey in March. For most Second Life users, only a handful such as Draxtor Despres expressed enthusiasm about it. So most reactions of it's sale were along the lines of "good riddance" and "why did it tale so long?" While many of it's personnel stayed with Linden Lab and went back to Second Life, some such as Torley Linden stayed and left the Lab. Torley is still with Sansar as it's Production Director. Another former Linden, Sheri Bryant, also stayed, continuing as it's General Manager.

Under Linden Lab, the original concept of Sansar appeared to be as Second Life's successor. But as it's development went on, the Lab began to realize most of it's residents would be reluctant to do more than casual visits. But it went on and to it's credit stuck with Sansar for some years, but didn't seem to have much of a plan other than "if you build it, they will come," and not many came. Exactly what Linden Lab could have done to make it work, and why it didn't do more has been debated numerous times. Perhaps it was simply beyond the Lab's ability to make Sansar thrive while operating Second Life.

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So how has Sansar been doing under Wookey? According to an article in New World Notes, lately it's been looking less like an open-ended virtual world where users can create their own experiences and more of a "virtual venue platform" for live events.

It's a smart move to target the live music/concert market in the COVID age. And I do like a lot of the functionality they are showing off in the video, especially avatar-to-avatar VR meet-and-greets for artists.

 Going to the website, , there's a clear emphasis on live events, right down to the title: "Sansar - A New Live Events Destination." There's nothing on the front page about being able to make your own content or create your own place, just a link to the old atlas of user-generated places on the bottom.

This isn't necessarily a better approach as if a person has time to hang around once the event is over, unlike Second Life where someone with even a small amount of experience knows they can explore around. But it seems Wookey's Sansar has come to the conclusion this is their best course of action to get users, and money.

However, there is one customer service problem that former Newser writer Cyfir informed me about. From his point of view, it's "almost impossible" for Sansar users to erase their accounts, "I requested to be removed back in may out of concerns that the new company would not handle my personal information in the right way. And four months later, I get an email, which just happened to be during my three day vacation, requesting information and proof that I am part of the European Union (Cyfir is in the US) ... and they gave me three days to reply before closing the request."

And as Cyfir wasn't in a position to check his email until after his vacation, the company sent him another email saying "as we have not heard back from you, our support system has automatically marked your ticket as resolved." As Cyfir put it, "So if I still want to close my account, I would have to send another request, wait another four months, and all the while they still have my personal information and my account is still active on a platform I don't want to be on."

 Coming across this thread in the Sansar "Bug Reports" forum, there were others whom found themselves in similar positions, including when the world was owned by Linden Lab. While some tried to assure them it shouldn't be much trouble, the response was that deleting accounts was a lot more difficult than it ought to be, "I've not bothered to repeat the request because every answer has made it clear no one is interested in helping.  Not wanting an account here is not a protest,  its simply a matter or personal privacy-  which in this case is being handled poorly to say the least.  being able to delete an account should be a very basic function of the system.  what reason could there be to not allow it? Maybe to hold onto personal data that the person does not wish them to have- like name and e-mail." It seems those whom have yet to visit Sansar and are considering giving it a look may need to keep this in mind.

So under Wooley, Sansar has found itself a new direction with a few of Linden Lab's talent keeping it going, such as Torley. But it appears not unlike the "Hotel California," those trying to check out may find they can't truly leave.

Source: New World Notes, Modem World  , Ryan Schultz

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, August 7, 2020

Mooogle As A Search Engine For The Metaverse

By Marcel Mosswood

As an Internet user, what is important and what you should be able to do? Know how to find a website or information that meets your needs among millions of other websites. We know Google as the most popular search engine today for all web needs, if we search for one keyword, it will display a larger selection of websites thar might suit our needs. But what if we just want to find websites related to the Metaverse?

One day, I tested with the words "Marcel and Sebastian's." What appears there is not what I meant. Then I expanded the words to include "art gallery," and it displayed art galleries in the real world, and a very small number in the Metaverse. It's hard to find anything specific about the Metaverse world. But do you know about Mooogle?

Mooogle is a search engine specifically for all websites of the Metaverse. So if I search with the keyword "art gallery," then it will display all websites that discuss art galleries in the virtual world. Likewise, if I search for education, all that comes up is about education in the Metaverse. With Mooogle, I can easily search for information about the Metaverse world.

How to access it simply by clicking on: then fill in the keywords in the search box. It's as easy as turning your palm. If your website that contains your adventure in the metaverse world can't be displayed by this search engine, then you need to register your website at Registration is very easy. And in no more than forty-eight hours, your website can be found in Mooogle search engine.

If you want to find out more about Mooogle please click here:

Marcel Mosswood

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Tales From Gaming : "L Is Real"

From Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich)

When I was growing up, we didn’t have the Internet. We spent much of our free time either outside or playing video games. For those who leaned more toward playing video games, there was probably no better time for the launch of the Nintendo 64. I spent hours in games like Super Mario 64 exploring every nook and cranny and trying to unlock everything that I could. When I finally did unlock everything, I set my sights to rumors that I heard about other unlockables in the game. One was that if you wall jumped just right outside in the corner of the castle, you could make it up to the roof without the need for unlocking the cannon. Failing that, I turned my sights to another rumor about Luigi being in the game. Apparently, in the back courtyard of the castle, there was a sign that seemed like it read “L is Real 2401” and many believed that this was proof that Luigi was somehow unlockable in the game.

In reality, this sign texture was just some random blurry texture asset that they even used in "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time," and these rumors were just the result of bored youth trying to find anything to do with their time that they could. However, twenty four years later, it turns out that they were at least partially right about the Luigi rumor.

Thanks to a recent massive leak of assets from Nintendo, it was discovered that Luigi was indeed in the source code of the game. This was due to the fact that there were original plans for the game to be two player. But that was scrapped in development due to them not being able to decide how to do it and the technical abilities of the system at the time. Of course, he had not been compiled into the actual game, so there was no way to actually unlock him by playing the game normally. But hackers got to work on retrieving the polygon and texture assets from the character model.

And here he is.

L is real after all.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Importance of Digital Media

By Cyfir (Cyfiremmerich Resident)

In my last article, I covered the importance of preserving physical media for future generations. If we got rid of all physical media in favor of going “all digital,” it could severely limit our ability to preserve works of art in the future. That being said, there are many advantages of digital media that do need to be covered in the interest of fairness.

One big advantage that digital media has over physical media is that you can often get it quicker. Instead of having to wait for it to show up in the mail or having to drive to the local store, all you have to do is purchase digital media with your credit or debit card online and download or stream it. With a pandemic going on, this obviously means that there is less risk to you or the person who has to deliver it to your house.

Obviously, being able to just download or stream media is more convenient. We live in a convenience society. We want things now, not later. We’re busy. Shaving off time anywhere we can is important to us. It’s more convenient to just start up your video game system and select the game you want to play from the menu rather than looking for the game on your shelf, opening the case, inserting the game, and waiting for it to load. Hell, we even eliminated the step of getting up to turn on your console. Most consoles today are able to be turned on with the included controller.

Economically, digital media is a great option, especially for independent companies and creators. Physical media can be cost prohibitive for independents to get published, physically produced, and shipped. It’s much cheaper to just put a game, movie, or song up on a digital storefront. That’s why you nearly only ever see video games from independent publishers on digital storefronts.

You would think that the environmental impact of digital media would be less than physical media. You don’t have to use environmental resources to manufacture digital content. You don’t have to load it on a truck, boat, and plane and burn a bunch of fossil fuels to get it to your local store or your house. However, the servers that digital media are stored on run on electricity. These servers have to be up and running day and night. The environmental impact that these servers have or totally dependent on where the companies running the servers get their electricity from. Many server farms run on renewable energy. Google in particular took many initiatives to get their electricity from renewable sources.

Digital media has many advantages, just like it has many disadvantages. I do not believe that digital media should ever fully replace physical media. It’s an option, though, and options are good.


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Why Physical Media Is Still Important

By Cyfir

In this day and age, physical media is becoming a dying medium. Most media has gone mostly digital. When you think of getting the latest album from your favorite band, getting the latest PC game, or buying a new movie, there’s a huge chance that you don’t think about heading to your local mall anymore. Instead, you likely think about downloading a new song on a service like iTunes, downloading a new game on Steam, or streaming a movie on a service like Netflix or Vudu. One of the last vestiges of physical media has been console games. Every major home video game console save for one has shipped with a disc drive or cartridge or card (etc.) slot up until this point. The Xbox One S All Digital Edition was the first major video game console derivative to skip physical media. This holiday season, the PlayStation 5 will release along with it’s all digital counterpart. Many are predicting that this will be the last console generation with physical media, and with at least one major video game company reporting that 80% of their sales are now digital, I don’t doubt it.

With all that said, I still believe that physical media is still very important, and that’s because we’ve already seen the downfalls of going “all digital.” For one, what do you think happens once the service that you downloaded your media from goes away and you no longer have the hardware you downloaded it on? That’s right. It’s gone. You never owned a copy of it and you’ll never have access to it again unless you buy it again on another platform. If you don’t think that this happens, dust off your old Nintendo Wii and try to buy a game from the eShop. You can’t because it’s no longer there. If your internal memory on the Wii fails, all those games you spent money on downloading over the course of the console’s life cycle are now gone. For some, this may not be a big deal, but some games are only released on the online shops. For video game preservationists, this is a nightmare. There have been many instances of where an unreleased or rare game has been discovered in someone’s attic and preserved online for others to enjoy. Unfortunately, if everything were to go digital, this just wouldn’t be possible in the future.

While digital delivery has a place in preservation, there needs to be a physical copy found to preserve. While I’ve mainly focused on video games here, these same arguments can be applied to any form of media. We have backed up recordings of old VHS tapes on YouTube for anyone to find and enjoy. Some of these VHS tapes are rare and would not be accessible by the general public otherwise. The problem is that media companies, in many cases, are not concerned with preserving their own history. They are more concerned with making money because they are a business. The artists creating these works usually have no control over what happens to them because they work for the companies.

If all media were to go digital, there would be many things that would be lost to time forever. Imagine losing the works of Beethoven to time because no one had a physical copy of his written notes and the servers that they were stored on were taken offline and erased forever. While digital media definitely has its advantages, physical media shouldn’t be forgotten or abandoned. I’ve downloaded plenty of games to my steam library and on my Nintendo Switch, but when it comes to games that I really care about, I’m going to get it physically and display it proudly on my shelf. If there’s an album from a band that I really care about, I’m getting a physical CD and enjoying that new CD smell for as long as I can. Physical media cannot be completely replaced. When the PlayStation 5 comes out, I’m getting the one with the disc drive.

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