"I want to briefly address four more tangents that are being used to attempt to throw the discussion off track..."
"Fourth one: 'CCP needs to find a EULA/TOS violation if they want to justify banning Erotica 1.' I assure you that this is not the case. It's convenient, certainly. But at the end of the day, the EULA clearly states that CCP owns Erotica 1's account and everything associated with it. CCP can close his accounts, seize all items associated with them, and simply refuse to take this man's money ever again. They have the right not to want this person as part of their community.
"But yes, I think it would be nice if the TOS were modified to state that you can't hunt for victims in CCP's game and then take them out of the game to torture them."
CSM 9 Vice-Chairman Ripard Teg, Reserve the Right
One way to ensure I write about a topic in EVE Online is to have a member of its player advisory body, the Council of Stellar Management, state that the game's End User License Agreement, Terms of Service, and other various policies that make up the rules of conduct for the game are "convenient" if they agree with what he wants CCP to do, but unimportant if they get in the way. But the subject, the efforts of video game companies to protect their customers from online predators, is a serious one.
Google searches quickly show that the online predators most feared are those who target children. While MMORPG like World of Warcraft have stories of adults targeting children for sex, a lot of attention is falling on Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's Playstation platforms. If online game companies cannot police the problem themselves, pressure will build for governments to step in. In the United States, law enforcement agencies are already conducting sting operations on gaming networks. In 2012, the state of New York entered into an agreement with Microsoft, Sony, Electronic Arts, Warner Brothers, Disney Interactive Media Group, Blizzard Entertainment, and Apple to purge its customer base of all registered sex offenders living in New York. The Attorney-General's office provides the companies an updated list every week.
Fortunately, despite the inflammatory rhetoric used by some in the EVE community, the actions of Erotica 1 and his cohorts do not rise anywhere close to that level of conduct. On the other hand, the person behind the character of Erotica 1 and several alt characters is a predator. He engages in a scam called ISK doubling and when he finds what he thinks is a suitable candidate he promises not a doubling of ISK, but a quintupling of ISK if they follow him to an out-of-game voice channel. Once there, he convinces the mark to hand over all of his/her possessions in EVE to him.
People outside the EVE player base will find that part of the scam shocking. But the really troubling aspect of this story is what happens next. Following the stripping of all of the mark's in-game possessions, the group then toys with the mark, giving him the hope of getting all of this stuff back. Erotica 1 and his team will swap out members to keep them fresh while subjecting the mark to psychological pressure in the form of performing more and more tasks in order to embarass the mark and finally get the mark to rage quit. On The Funky Bacon Show Friday night/Saturday morning, Erotica 1 and his associates disclosed that these sessions typically last five hours, with one lasting twelve hours. These sessions are recorded, edited, and posted on the web for the enjoyment for the group and their fans. How many? When FunkyBacon posed the question, Erotica 1 was vague, claiming they all ran together in his mind, but stated 100 and perhaps as many as 200 people were subjected to the experience over the past year. Jita has proven a fertile hunting ground.
So, is Ripard correct about the current state of the EULA and ToS and what their ability to protect players from predators? I believe the answer is no. His understanding of the rules is, regretfully for someone in his position, pretty bad. Here's why.
First, Ripard is incorrect in his assumption that the EULA gives players no rights whatsoever. Section 5B of the EULA deals with the conditions under which CCP may suspend or ban an account. In subsection 1, the EULA lists two conditions that could result in account suspension:
- (i) a breach of the EULA (including the Rules of Conduct) by you or any user under your Account.
- (ii) unauthorized access to the System or use of the Game by you or any user under your Account.
- (i) you fail to pay the fees when due.
- (ii) CCP is unable to verify or authenticate any information you provide.
- (iii) you or anyone using any of your Accounts materially breaches the EULA, makes any unauthorized use of the System or Software, or infringes the rights of CCP or any third party.
- (iv) CCP becomes aware of game play, chat or player activity under your Account that is, in CCP's discretion, inappropriate, offensive, or in violation of the Rules of Conduct.
25. CCP reserves the right to close, temporarily or permanently, any user’s account without advance notice as we deem necessary. Furthermore, we reserve the right to delete all user accounts or inventory of characters as warranted.Taken out of context, these two points seem to indicate that CCP can ban and delete an account any time they want. Taken in context, the meaning is a little different. In point 25, what CCP is stating is that the company can ban any account without notice, not that it can ban any account it wants, for any reason. This point states in advance that CCP is not going to inform a player before a ban is issued.
26. We reserve the right to ban any user from the game without refund or compensation.
In point 26, the reader should not place the emphasis on the phrase, "We reserve the right to ban any user..." Instead place the emphasis on, "without refund or compensation." Often, a banned user will want a refund for the remaining play time left on an account. Point 26 basically tells players in advance, "No!"
If a player follows the rules, CCP by their own rules cannot ban a player's accounts. So does Erotica 1's conduct fall within the "Rules of Conduct"? Or did he cross one of the complicated rules and fail CCP's own version of "the bonus room"? Ripard claims that no language exists in any of CCP's policies stating that Erotica 1 violated any rules.
Thanks to the input of other players1, I've found two places where I believe Erotica 1's actions allows CCP to terminate the EULA for all of Erotica 1's accounts under Section 5, Paragraph B2 of the EULA. The first was pointed out to me by CSM 8 member Ali Aras. Section 6, Paragraph A5 reads:
"You may not submit any content to any chat room or other public forum within the Game that is harassing, abusive, threatening, harmful, obscene, libelous or defamatory, encourages conduct that could constitute a criminal offense or give rise to civil liabilities, or is unlawful in any other way, including without limitation the submission of content that infringes on a third-party’s intellectual property rights." [emphasis mine]Ali pointed out that "could constitute" doesn't mean a conviction is necessary, just that a proceeding could arise that might entangle CCP in a legal dispute. Expanding out from Ali's initial point, "Encourages conduct" in this case would involve the use of the chat function to persuade a player to go to an out-of-game site where activities that could lead to CCP becoming involved in the dispute. I believe that the phrase "could constitute a criminal offense or give rise to civil liabilities" is written in such a way to indicate that CCP is concerned, at least in the U.S., with the cost and effort of complying with any subpoenas issued in a case during the discovery phase, even if the company is not a party to the case. What civil liability, you ask? If Erotica 1, or an imitator, were to cause someone such distress that the mark required medical attention (i.e. heart attack, stroke, etc) I can see CCP becoming involved, if only to supply the defendent's real life information. The plaintiff's attorneys might even wish to review any relevant logs. I hear that a suit where a lawyer can add intentional infliction of emotional distress to the charges can net a plaintiff a lot more money.
The second place, located in the Terms of Service, is a more obvious place to look:
1. You may not abuse, harass or threaten another player or authorized representative of CCP, including customer service personnel and volunteers. This includes, but is not limited to: filing support tickets with false information in an attempt to gain from it or have someone else suffer from it; sending excessive e-mails, EVE-mails or support tickets; obstructing CCP Employees from doing their jobs; refusal to follow the instructions of a CCP Employee; or implying favoritism by a CCP Employee. [emphasis mine]Because the examples include out-of-game examples, CCP theoretically could add an example of players abusing or harassing other characters on out-of-game comms. Because the point includes "but is not limited to," CCP would not even have to change the language. Some might argue that point 5 in the ToS argues against CCP enforcing point 1 against out-of-game activity:
5. You will report out-of-game issues regarding harassment, such as threatening phone calls or correspondence, to your local law enforcement officials or Internet provider. CCP will not reveal personal information about its subscribers to unauthorized individuals. We are not responsible for actions taken by our subscribers that occur outside the jurisdiction of our game servers or web site. [emphasis mine]My reading of this part is that CCP realizes it does not have the people or the power to enforce all the rules on all the players at all times outside the company's infrastructure and is telling players how to handle such a situation. However, point 5 does not contain any language stating that CCP will not take action if it so chooses. The language does suggest, however, if CCP does start trying to police the player base that such policing would necessarily prove very selective.
At this point, I should add that while I disagree with FunkyBacon about whether the EULA/ToS allows CCP to ban Erotica 1, I share a lot of the concerns he has. If CCP rules that Erotica 1's activities violate point 1 of the ToS, I can only imagine the nightmare for CCP's customer service people as players submit a flood of tickets trying to figure out the limits of the new interpretation of the ToS. Also, given the EVE community, how many players will try to manufacture evidence of EULA/ToS violations against their in-game enemies? If CCP changes the historical interpretation of point 1, then I think that CCP needs to clarify exactly what point 1 covers. Realistically, that would require a new, updated Terms of Service agreement.
If CCP does impose a suspension or ban on Erotica 1,2 I hope it uses Section 6, Paragraph A5 of the EULA as the justification and not point 1 of the ToS. Using the EULA violation would result in a very limited, targeted action against someone who lures someone from the in-game client to an out-of-game site. Using the logic gives a precedent for CCP on how to handle others who wish to prey upon their player base that not only does not require a change to the existing EULA, but should not cause even the players wearing the biggest tin-foil hats to worry that one misspoken word on a private Mumble channel could result in a ban.
UPDATE: I pressed the publish button without setting the schedule for this post. As a result, I missed adding this statement from CCP Falcon, the Community Manager for EVE Online, in the original version of the post. I believe it relevant:
"In terms of hard data based on player age, we have an extremely mature community.
"It's quite clear that we also have an extremely intelligent community, even if sometimes the content posted on these forums is to the contrary. I think that playing EVE requires a certain level of intelligence, thickness of skin, and ability to deal with your fellow man in circumstances that are sometimes not to your favor.
"However, there's a line as to how severe those circumstances should get, and I'll paraphrase Mynxee by saying that this line needs to be drawn at the point where the alleged victim starts to lose emotional control. We can't set an arbirarty line for this, as this is different for everyone, and every situation. There must be a willingness by those involved to recognise when that point has been reached and realize, with positive community spirit in mind, that they should stop and honor that line with humaine and decent behaviour.
"In the same respect, there must also be a level of responsibility held by CCP to ensure that we have the wellbeing of our community and each of our players at the forefront of our minds during the decision making process when an issue like this comes up.
"We have done this only once in the past, and this was due to the fact that the individual involved was the chairman of the Council of Stellar Management, which put us in an extraordinary position in terms of clariflying the situation.
"In the end, scam, AWOX and betray each other as much as you like. Steal from each other as much as you like. Gank, pod and sabotage each other as much as you like. These are the stories that drive gameplay in EVE, and we are not looking to re-define the sandbox. We do however need to make it clear that in the, end every sandbox has edges just the same as EVE has limits, and those limits are built on a basic level of empathy, understanding and humaine behavior."
1. FunkyBacon was very helpful in shooting down various thoughts and keeping me from looking exceedingly stupid.
2. Erotica 1 claims to be banned. If so, as far as I can tell the ban for that character, if one was issued, is not permanent. Also, I am reluctant to trust the word of a notorious scam artist.