Hamlet Au recently blogged – Linden Lab Declines Comment on Continued Sale of Racist Confederate Flag Items in Official Second Life Store. In that post Hamlet said
I’ve e-mailed Linden Lab three times about the sale of Confederate flag items in its official Second Life Marketplace (which I blogged about last week), but have still not received any kind of reply. At this point I’m forced to conclude Linden Lab is declining to address the issue — either publicly, or in the Marketplace itself, where Confederate flag items are still quite easy to find and buy, both through searches of “Confederate” and “rebel flag”.
Whereas Linden Lab may have declined to comment, it does seem that they are taking action. In a post on SLUniverse, Second Life content creator Amigo Uriza writes :
Yesterday and today, I got all my outfits with the rebel or confederate flag delisted and deleted from the marketplace.
I always supposed that flags were never copyrighted or trademarked … that’s why I decided to used them. Actually It wasn’t me, but my deceased partner that created those “rebel” items a few years ago and I have been selling them since then. I haven’t created any other since then.
According to Linden my items have been removed for “Listings for harmful or disruptive content”. They are just outfits with a flag on the chest or the back. Nothing else. Some of them have been removed for “Post, display, or transmit Content that is obscene, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable”
First things first, Amigo admits that English is not his first language, so he may very well be unaware of the more sinister meanings behind the Confederate Battle Flag. I say this as someone who does have English as a first language and I didn’t understand how deep the negative symbolism of this banner went. I have put this down to the fact that it is widely seen on Film and TV where it’s not always in a context of racism. This is a different scenario to which people generally see the Nazi symbol, with some exceptions in Asia and even then, those of us in the west raise eyebrows when we see the symbol.
However the commentary and news stories surrounding the Confederate Battle Flag in recent days have pointed out loud and clear how much a symbol of hatred it can be. This therefore has definitely put Linden Lab in an uncomfortable position.
Amigo’s post is backed up by the fact that a search of the Second Life Marketplace no longer seems to return obvious items emblazoned with the Confederate Battle Flag.
However you can still find the confederate flag of Stars and Bars, so they don’t seem to be removing everything, just the battle flag. I’m sure there are legitimate uses of the Confederate Battle Flag within virtual worlds, such as re-enactments of American Civil War battles. This is where matters can get a tad murky, but that excuse doesn’t really wash with bikinis, jackets, vehicles etc.
The Guardian recently reported that many retailers are removing Confederate Battle Flag Merchandise from their stores :
Online giants Amazon, eBay and Etsy are joining retailers Walmart and Sears in banning the sale of items featuring images of the Confederate flag, as a wave of opposition to the divisive historical symbol builds in the wake of a racially motivated massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, last week.
Therefore it should come as no surprise that Linden Lab are following suit. I do feel that Linden Lab should make a statement on this issue, if only to clear up any confusion on the issue. Items that are not allowed on The Marketplace should also be forbidden inworld.
Linden Lab of course do face the awkward situation of being in charge of a user generated content world, so it’s difficult to stop people uploading content, but a clear message on how they won’t tolerate symbols of hatred would be welcomed at this time.