NYTimes: A Real-Life Debate on Free Expression in a Cyberspace City
Thursday, January 15, 2004
">An article discussing the problems cropping up in trying to apply real-world ethics and morals to the virtual worlds created in online games:
Peter Ludlow said he was only trying to expose the truth that Alphaville's authorities were all too happy to ignore. In his online newspaper, The Alphaville Herald, he reported on thieves and their scams. He documented what he said was a teenage prostitution ring. He criticized the city's leaders for not intervening to make it a better place.
In response to his investigative reporting, Mr. Ludlow says, he was banished from Alphaville. He was kicked out of his home; his other property was confiscated. Even his two cats were taken away.
Alphaville is not a real town but a virtual city in an Internet game called The Sims Online, where thousands of paying subscribers log on each day to assume fictional identities and mingle in cyberspace. Indeed, none of Mr. Ludlow's possessions existed outside the game. But the recent decision by the game's owner, Electronic Arts, to terminate Mr. Ludlow's account—forever erasing his simulated Sims persona—has set off a debate over free expression and ethical behavior in online worlds that is reverberating in the real one.
"To me, it was clearly censorship," said Mr. Ludlow, whom the Internet magazine Salon.com described as "an unabashed muckraker."