FTC Creates Best Practices for Online Virtual Worlds

Jan 20, 2010 9:00 AM PST
WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission has issued a report that examines the incidence of sexually and violently explicit content in online virtual worlds, looking at a number of operators including the adult themed-Utherverse’s Red Light Center, which boasts more than 4 million members.

The congressionally mandated report released last month, “Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks,” urges operators of virtual worlds to take a number of steps to police itself and keep explicit content away from minors, who can access explicit content in virtual worlds.

The FTC surveyed 27 online virtual worlds and found at least one instance of either sexually or violently explicit content in 19 of the 27 worlds.

The FTC observed a heavy amount of explicit content in five of the virtual worlds studied, a moderate amount in four worlds and only a low amount in the remaining 10 worlds in which explicit content was found.

“The time is ripe for these companies to grow up and implement better practices to protect kids,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

The FTC makes five recommendations to virtual world operators to reduce the risk of youth exposure to explicit content:

  • Use more effective age-screening mechanisms to prevent children from registering in adult virtual worlds;
  • Use or enhance age-segregation techniques to make sure that people interact only with others in their age group;
  • Re-examine language filters to ensure that they detect and eliminate messages that violate rules of behavior in virtual worlds;
  • Provide more guidance to community enforcers in virtual worlds so they are better able to review and rate virtual world content, report potential underage users, and report any users who appear to be violating rules of behavior; and,
  • Employ a staff of specially trained moderators who are equipped to take swift action against rule violations.
  • The full text of the report can be found here.

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