Friday, May 25, 2007

Virtual Terrorism in Second Life

Last night cyber-attackers set off some sort of bomb on the ABC island in Second Life. As the before and after pictures show (hat tip: Kotaku), the bomb utterly nuked the place. While the island was restored within a few hours, ABC did spend tens of thousands of dollars to create the island in the first place, according to

If we place this event in the larger context of virtual worlds (as I am wont to do), this cyber-attack raises the issue of virtual property. What was the damage to ABC? It would seem that ABC simply lost any revenue it might have earned from the island during the downtime. But other questions intrude. What if it wasn't vandals, but an electrical problem with one of Linden Lab's server farms? Would Linden Lab be on the hook for damages? (I suspect there is something in the Linden Lab EULA/TOS that is on point.) Alternatively, what if the real benefit of ABC Island is not a revenue stream, but community relations and branding? How does one place a value (to ABC) on users being unable to download video or interact with others on the island? Indeed, it has been suggested that the main benefit for big corporations is not sales but customer relationships, branding, or gathering market data.

ABC Island is the 3rd most visited commercial site in Second Life, BTW.