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SecondLife Bans Unregistered In-World Banks 353

Posted by timothy
from the it-all-seems-a-bit-fictional dept.
GuruBuckaroo writes "Virtual Ponzi schemes — pardon, "Banks" — have finally been given the boot by the policymakers at Linden Lab's Second Life. According to the company's latest blog post: 'As of January 22, 2008, it will be prohibited to offer interest or any direct return on an investment (whether in L$ or other currency) from any object, such as an ATM, located in Second Life, without proof of an applicable government registration statement or financial institution charter. We're implementing this policy after reviewing Resident complaints, banking activities, and the law, and we're doing it to protect our Residents and the integrity of our economy.'"
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SecondLife Bans Unregistered In-World Banks

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  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:06PM (#21973418) Homepage Journal
    LL should have had exclusive control over their currency and the exchange thereof to begin with. Allowing other parties to do this for them was an open invitation for them and their users to get shafted.

    Morons.
    • by archen (447353) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:15PM (#21973572)
      It is however interesting how Second Life started out as this sort of free for all, and more and more it's starting to evolve a government out of necessity. There are many institutions that a person may think are not really needed by society, yet we see that online civilizations seem to reinvent the same things. Also interesting that this "government" has already stomped on people, and people already bitch about it. Seems like second life is getting too much like the first one.
      • by torkus (1133985)
        Haha. Yes, it's funny how much of what they're doing mirrors what "real" government does.

        However there's one big difference. In SL, there's anonimity. There is no recourse. There is no sort of court or penalty available.

        In RL (actual society of a mythical better one i dream about) you would be a lot less anonymous in running a bank or "bank". Even without banking laws and WITH a simple "responsibility" law you'd still be stuck paying back the money or working it off.

        I don't think comparing SL and RL is
        • While it is not Life or death there the consequence is the Game loosing popularity due to to much chaos to be fun. While Real Life the goal is to survive in second life the goal is entertainment if that is loss it is equlivlant to death in the real world.
          • by torkus (1133985)
            I tend to disagree on the "goal" of RL but we'll table that one as irrelevant :)

            However, I will argue that RL death is not in any way the same as losing popularity or even entirely losing your character/account in SL or any similar online venue. Death is final, you can always re-create a character which is nothing more than bits stored on a server. The worst you lose there is the time invested. Sure it might not be fun anymore but there will always be other choices for entertainment.

            If i lose my warcraft
        • by fm6 (162816)

          Even without banking laws and WITH a simple "responsibility" law you'd still be stuck paying back the money or working it off.
          "A simple responsibility law"? What, you're going to make Charles Keeting wash dishes until he pays back the $4 billion he misplaced? Let's see, at $10 an hour, that'd only take him 50K years!
          • by torkus (1133985)
            Yes but compared to today - where YOU AND I (and a whole bunch of other taxpayers) would spend about $70k PER YEAR to keep him in jail doing nothing productive.

            So yes, he will never actually pay off the debt. However, seizing all of his assets and putting him to productive work sure does more than letting him continue to cost society money.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by flanksteak (69032) *

        It is however interesting how Second Life started out as this sort of free for all, and more and more it's starting to evolve a government out of necessity.

        Yes, the fantasy of the Ayn Rand unregulated perfect market always comes crashing down when human nature gets involved.

        As much as people hate to admit it, regulation is a necessary part of society. You just have to hope for the right balance. Too little is chaos, too much a police state.

        • by wpiman (739077)
          Well, if people get burned- word gets around. This little problem would have resolved itself. Who is going to put money into a bank with a bad reputation.
          • I think the point is that with a Ponzi scheme [wikipedia.org], the bank doesn't get the bad reputation until people have put their money in.
          • by flanksteak (69032) *

            It didn't have a bad reputation. Before the scheme began it had no reputation. In this case, without rules from LL, all it does it make it harder users to trust institutions without a rep external to the game. The problem may be resolved in regards to one SL bank, but if the prob repeats then it reflects on SL when nobody wants to come on line and play. SL can't not act without harming their own reputation.

            If no regulations exist, then banking in Second Life can't be trusted at all. It seems like it would

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by vux984 (928602)
              If no regulations exist, then banking in Second Life can't be trusted at all.

              This really should have been a given. IRL in an anarchy without regulations, you can still find the corrupt bankers, tie them to a tree and let them starve while crows peck out their eyes... and send a message to other potential corrupt bankers. In SL there was absolutely nothing you could do. Period. Giving them money in trust was idiotic.

              And Eve isn't any better. Nor are the 'lotteries' and 'gambling games' people try to run in m
        • CCP do tolerate most scams in their game, and they expicitly warn people against being too trusting. Even if the perpetrator is known, the GMs will usually not refund your money - it's just tough luck ;-)
          I think they might make an exception if the scamming was done by exploiting bugs in the game mechanics. But if it is simply misplaced trust, you get no compensation at all.

          Even so, the economy in EVE is still working.
          • by lgw (121541)
            EVE is everyhting I don't like in an MMO, but they really understand how to make a virtual economy work! Of course, they hire actual economists for this purpose, so it's not a big surprise.
        • I don't think Ayn Rand was for no government. Just one that is as small as possible and gets out of the way of commerce. For a simple example, look at contracts. In her world I would think it's okay for the government to step in and make sure contracts that were signed are upheld. When you give your money to a bank you are making a contract with the bank that you can get that money back and probably earn some interest on it.
          • by flanksteak (69032) *

            Relying on contracts is reactive and shifts enforcement of regulation to the courts, which as we have often discussed on slashdot is slanted to those who have more resources to argue their position (think **AA).

            I'll take a reasonable amount of preventitive regulation that doesn't require the employment of 3rd parties to mount a dispute.

      • by garylian (870843)
        Your observation is quite correct.

        It is a combination of "keyboard courage" that comes with being effectively anonymous, and the fact that most humans will treat other humans poorly if they think they can get away with it.

        Rules help make a society, even a virtual one. Without those rules, everyone is prey.

        It just goes to show you that the old addage is still strong: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gnuman99 (746007)
        Not in EVE. Not in EVE.

        As long as you don't exploit game bugs to exploit others, you are ok.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ergo98 (9391)

      Allowing other parties to do this for them was an open invitation for them and their users to get shafted

      No, it's an open invitation for there to be gaming because it's a game.

    • by _KiTA_ (241027)

      LL should have had exclusive control over their currency and the exchange thereof to begin with. Allowing other parties to do this for them was an open invitation for them and their users to get shafted.

      Morons.


      Much like us Americans and our Visa, Mastercard, and small problem with Banks (Sub-prime mortgage, anyone)? We've let other parties value our money for ages -- after all, if a credit card company can add 30-40% interest (in the name of "fees" and crap like that), how's that different then them changi
    • no they shouldn't and they still shouldn't. people refuse to take personal responsibility for being stupid that is the problem. What you are suggesting is exactly the kind of complaint everyone makes at mmorpgs that refuse to let people sell their accounts and goods for $. I dont care who it protects all this does is restrict your freedoms. You should be able to do whatever you want with your money; just like with ebay if cooks are dumb enough to pay 100 L$ for a coupon for 1 L$ then that is their pro
  • Virtual Trust? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blueZhift (652272) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:08PM (#21973452) Homepage Journal
    The thing that I have trouble conceiving of is how people could trust these virtual banks/investment schemes in the first place, especially since there's real money involved. I find Second Life interesting, but like the internet, it's still a bit of the wild west. I barely trust my real world bank to do the right thing with my money, to say nothing of trusting some virtual bank.
    • by Nimey (114278) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:21PM (#21973692) Homepage Journal
      int counter;
      for (counter = 0; counter < 100; counter++) {
        sprintf ("People are stupid.");
      }
      • by Entropius (188861) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:39PM (#21974030)
        Don't you mean printf rather than sprintf?
      • by Solandri (704621)
        int counter;
        time_t prev_time;
        class sucker;

        for (counter = 0; counter < sucker.population(); counter++) {
          if ( (time()-prev_time) > 60 ) {
            prev_time = time();
            sucker.born();
            sprintf ("People are stupid.");
          }
        }
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by _xeno_ (155264)

        I think there's a rather obvious problem with that. The print line should be:

        sprintf(stdout, "People are stupid.\n");

        Otherwise it doesn't compile.

        (Disclaimer: Yes, this is intended as a joke.)

    • Re:Virtual Trust? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DrXym (126579) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:33PM (#21973910)
      The thing that I have trouble conceiving of is how people could trust these virtual banks/investment schemes in the first place, especially since there's real money involved.

      There's a simple answer to that. People are stupid. They think that money grows on trees and all they have to do is give it to some virtual "bank" and they'll enjoy some staggering rate of return. In truth it is the idiots who follow on behind who are paying the interest for the ones in front.

      I expect SL has become very popular with con men for this reason. Wouldn't surprise me at all if all sorts of ponzi schemes, pyramid scams, matrix scams, and just plain old fashioned fraud happen every day on SL because there is so little regulation and a lot of gullible people within easy reach.

  • Remember kids... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:09PM (#21973470)
    The "virtual" in virtual worlds means it isn't real. Once you leave the bounds of the physical world here on earth, you're in uncharted waters. After that, you might as well be living in the old west where the only justice you get is the justice you take.

    The crooks may still wear black, but they pack all new weapons now.
  • free advertising? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I have never, EVER, met a person who 'plays' this game, I am probably the only one in my circle who has even heard of it, and I only hear about it here on slashdot.
    • by boristdog (133725) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:19PM (#21973656)
      I have never, EVER, met a person who 'plays' this game, I am probably the only one in my circle who has even heard of it, and I only hear about it here on slashdot.

      My sentiments exactly. And I work with hundreds of nerds/engineers/etc.

      All of the people I know seem to have first lives.
      • by Feyr (449684)
        i've tried it, but i can't bring myself to stay logged on for any length of time. it's BLAND

        there's nothing to do, sure you can "build" stuff, but the editor is clunky. and outside of that it's one big IRC chat with the same level of conversation you'd expect from a general chat... if you can even find anyone to talk to.

        the engine is on-par for a 1995 game and without a predictive movement algorithm, when you move around and it has a 2 second lag between your keypress and the actual movement on the screen
    • by Dmala (752610)
      I think Second Life gets a lot of play on Slashdot because the the concept is cool in a geeky sort of way: a virtual world with complete freedom to create and do anything. It's essentially the Metaverse that Neil Stephenson describes in the book Snow Crash.

      The reality is that it's a low resolution, reeeeeealy slowly loading version of the Metaverse, heavy on furries and flying penises. But hey, it's a start.
    • Second Life made a prominante apperance on the Television show "The Office". Have you ever heard of that show or are you that out of touch?
  • Run on the banks? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jorghis (1000092) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:17PM (#21973606)
    Of course what really just happened is that they have triggered a massive run on the banks now. Is it better to wait for all the different banks to fail or ban them causing everyone to withdraw their money at once? You are giong to see every bank going the way of Ginko in the very near future now. (even that tiny minority that wasnt offering ponzi scheme style interest rates)
  • by wpiman (739077) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:19PM (#21973652)
    In the US, the Federal Reserve has the right to create money out of thin air. They don't want anyone encroaching on that power. In SL, Linden has the power. They should be cracking down. Both worlds need some hard currency in my opinion.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:21PM (#21973708) Homepage

    Being a bank in Second Life isn't very attractive to real banks, because they can't create money in Second Life, like they can in the real world.

    • by Ed Avis (5917)
      Why not? A bank could take deposits of 100 virtual groats and make interest-paying loans of 90 virtual groats, keeping 10 virtual groats in the vault for cash withdrawals. As long as not all the savers want to withdraw their money at once, the bank can keep running and has created 90 virtual groats of money. If the savers are in a delayed access account (e.g. 60 days notice) then the bank can call in loans if needed and so will always be able to meet its obligations provided not too many of its loans go
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Being a bank in Second Life isn't very attractive to real banks, because they can't create money in Second Life, like they can in the real world.

      In what way can a bank "create" money in the real world?

      They can't issue or print money. All of their assets are actually based on real world assets. They may use the deposit you have registered with them to underwrite other transactions, but I don't get the sense they can just "create money".

      Am I missing something here? If banks could just create money, our eco

      • They can and do, every single day. Every dollar you deposit can be loaned out the equivalent of ten times over. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reserve_requirement [wikipedia.org]

        Your money truly is just bits in a computer, and the law governs what the banks are allowed to make those bits say. The printing of currency is not actually involved in the process of _creating_ money. Printed currency is just a token, one of many means of moving the values of those bits from one institution to another.
    • Being a bank in Second Life isn't very attractive to real banks, because they can't create money in Second Life, like they can in the real world.

      They can't really create money IRL. They can create debt, and if they don't put that debt to good use, banks lose a lot of REAL money. My Bank of America stock is down 20% in a matter of WEEKS. I thought, if Warren Buffet owns it, it can't be too bad. Looks like Buffet and I are both fools, now.

      If they really could just create money, I demand BAC create enough mone

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Being a bank in Second Life isn't very attractive to real banks, because they can't create money in Second Life, like they can in the real world.

      What stops a bank from making a loan (and collecting interest) in Second Life? What stops them from investing in some brilliant "object maker"?

      In short, I don't follow your reasoning... if Second Life is ok with banks that register with them, then why can't that registered bank do everything a real life bank does?
  • by jacquesm (154384) <j@NOsPAm.ww.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:22PM (#21973712) Homepage
    Anybody that converts real world assets to virtual ones deserves what they get. Seriously, what's on your mind when you convert your hard earned cold cash into bits in some virtual world ?

    Don't you have a better way of spending your money ? Most fads on the internet I can sort of understand what they're about and what their 'pull' is but second life is one step too many for me to follow.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by PrimalChrome (186162)
      Anybody that converts real world assets to virtual ones deserves what they get. Seriously, what's on your mind when you convert your hard earned cold cash into bits in some virtual world ?

      Let me take a stab at this....
      Ever bought software? Were you paying for the disc or the code?
      Ever gone to see a movie?
      Ever paid to do something or experience something?
      Ever exchanged hard earned cold cash for a service?

      Paying for intangibles that result in your enjoyment is something everyone does on one level or another.

  • For those of you who want to invest real capital in cyber-world banks, you can still do it at Entropia Universe [projectentropia.com]

    Last year, 5 banks opened up in Entropia Universe, each with a minimum of $100,000 capital for making loans. You can check your in-game items into a safety deposit box at such a cyber-bank, and receive a credit line (in real dollars), using the in-game item as collateral.

    Each bank is sanctioned by MindArk (the software company that made the game), and is allowed to set any policies that they w

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:32PM (#21973890)
    First it was the gaming.
    Now it's the banks.

    What good is 2L if you can't virtually explore the things there that aren't possible, safe, legal, or some combination of all of these virtually? I don't need every part of my life to have training wheels.

    So how long before virtual sex entirely is gone too?
    Followed by avatars who are too sexy, or provacative.

    2L was a place were you could learn life lessons by being stupid. Now it seems intending to become one of the more restrictive Middle East countries instead.

    • What good is 2L if you can't virtually explore the things there that aren't possible, safe, legal, or some combination of all of these virtually?

      If $L weren't exchangeable for real world dollars and purchased with them, there wouldn't be a problem here. There is a difference between a virtual world which allows you to simulate things that are illegal in the real world and a virtual world which provides a vehicle for doing, in the real world, things that are illegal in the real world.

  • by Brett Buck (811747) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:33PM (#21973896)
    Does this mean I can get a new simulated job as a simulated chartered accountant or simulated banking regulator! Oh goody, where do I sign up?

              Brett
  • SL Imitates FL (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:34PM (#21973924) Homepage Journal
    That's more like a law of government than like a law of nature.

    We're seeing the exact process by which people create governments to protect our rights. Since SL already had what was equivalent to tribal and voluntary governments, we are seeing something much like the process SL'ers learned about in history.
  • Next thing you know, they'll be asking your place and nature of employment when opening financial accounts, trying to monitor all communications, and placing incompetent Gestapo in the airports.
  • People tend to laugh at Virtual "Assets" because they keep comparing it to physical items.

    OF COURSE Virtual assets are not tangible real items. What they represent is effort/service on the part of somebody. When you "buy" something in Second life you are not buying a Virtual House/dress/etc, you are paying for the service/labor involved in the creation of said digital content. Looking at it in that way does not make it so cooky.

    One could say when you "buy" an ebook you are not actually buying a book, but pe
  • In all cases, charging interest on money or property lended causes problems. Many economists attribute the existence of interest as the sole cause of inflation, and inflation causes all kinds of other issues. It's a slippery slope to financial ruin for an entire economy, and SecondLife was headed that way. Glad to see them do something about it before many more people lost their money.

    I'm not a very religious person, but even the bible states that charging interest is akin to theft. It's simply making money
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bonkeydcow (1186443)
      no offense but your on crack. Without interest there would be no loans. You would have to save up the money for everything before you bought it. The world runs on credit and therefore, interest. And for your bible reading... read the story of the guy who gives money to his workers while he is away. When one of the workers returns the money on the mans return is chastised for not having gained any interest.
    • by scorp1us (235526)
      Charging interest is not evil. Charging interest is something you can do once you've gotten your own money, found a credible debtor, and made allowances for your non-use of the money. It is very clean, plain, and well understood.

      The only other way to create an atmosphere of lending is to base the return off of the return of the money. This happens today when an investor invests in a company. He can get his investment out, but also gets a part of the company - a reward for enabling the enterprise. Also, a st
  • by scorp1us (235526) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:54PM (#21975314) Journal
    And you do it with fake money.

    In the olden days "dollar bills" wire actually silver or gold certificates. You could trade these paper certificates for the actual gold or silver. Prior to this, you'd carry it in a coin purse. But the paper money while more subject to wear, was lighter and literally more flexible and therefore comfortable. A US Dollar was based off the Spanish dollar and was settled on 371.25 grains of .999 fine silver officially by the government, with a gold standard following.

    This limited inflation (the only way to deflate the currency was to send bankers to the hills to mine metals) and was real value.

    Then in 1913 two things happened: we got the Federal Reserve and the 16th amendment. These two institutions, both once non-existent, rule the country today. With the creation of the FR the US borrowed money from the FR ]]at interest[[ setting up a positive feedback loop of inflation. In order to do this they also had to decouple the money from the metal backing, which was completed in 197[2?] under Richard Nixon. If you want to see real inflation, it is measured in the M3 statistic, which the Fed stopped publishing recently. But you can see it here [shadowstats.com] Instead of talking inflation, the Fed tries to talk CPI - which is an aggregate from several industries. Notably absent is the mortgage market, which ask anyone, its costs have doubled in the the past 5 years. But the CPI leaves this out, and only includes rents, which have stayed disproportionately low because of all the house seekers.

    Today the paper you move about is as valuable as those bits in the computer. If the word "certificate" appeared on them it would be completely a different situation. You could go to the bank and get metal, whose value wouldn't ever go down. But now, you can't expect to leave $30,000 in the bank and have the same buying power 10 years later. Over the last 90 years, the dollar has fallen to just $0.04 of its original value, as valued by the silver market.

    But getting back on topic - any kind of calamity that shakes the confidence of Americans will affect the buying power of the dollar. Not a new vein of gold, not a run on banks, not a stock market crash. The only absolute value is cold hard cash. And by cold and hard I mean a metal.

    --Epilogue--

    I often wonder what all this means int he grand scheme. If you have money, this is an issue. If you have debt, it is actually a good thing because debts are paid off with future, depreciated money, and they take that money at face value. (Which an old bill is rarely worth.) The key here is to have one foot in both areas: pay off debts with inflating currency and have your investments in metals-backed currency.

    There has been a movement to inflation-proof currency, known as the Liberty dollar. These were negotiable certificates which actually were redeemable for metal. The Federal Reserve shut it down and seized all the silver, because this, while completely legal, are the one thing a person can do to retain control and live outside the system. If it ever got popular (and I believe it would, particularly in times of inflation) the Federal Reserve would have competition that couldn't be influenced by it. The important thing to note is that it would be no different of a situation than America, pre-1913.

    Finally, note that the Federal Reserve is not Federal (it is private) nor is it a Reserve (it holds nothing - the gold it once held is unaccounted for.) The only worse-named entity is Social Security.

Money will say more in one moment than the most eloquent lover can in years.

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