UPDATE: the video referenced is sadly no longer online.
The story goes like this: my twelve year-old son Oliver builds a spectacular tower in Minecraft (Olly is a Minecraft ninja and runs his own server). Then, an anti-social twerp demolishes the whole thing. This kind of large-scale vandalism is called ‘griefing’ in Minecraft and is frowned upon (terrific explanation on the Minecraft wiki).
Unfortunately for said twerp, though, the rozzers are on hand: a Minecraft admin is online and sees the whole thing. Dishing out the kind of blocky summary justice that’s only possible in a kind of blocky virtual world, the admin incarcerates our twerp in a special Minecraft jail built for the purpose (for how long I’m not sure).
Here’s the best bit. Oliver visits our twerp in his very public nick (there’s some blocky banter), captures a video of his visit, adds informative captions and a soundtrack (Jailhouse Rock, what else?) and publishes it on YouTube. I’m so proud (I’ll have a word about his spelling of of ‘griefer’, though).
Of course, I find myself wondering if I should encourage this kind of naming and shaming but, since this is essentially an extension of Minecraft’s in-game sanction and since it doesn’t seem to be possible to reconstruct the twerp’s real identity from the video (and since he is a troll), I’m OK with it. Gamer justice: tough but fair.
I’ve run a number of pretty big web sites in my time, often maintaining large customer databases and, of course, log files. We kept those log files indefinitely but rarely consulted them. When we did it was always at the request of law enforcement and always in the presence of a warrant. At another.com, which was a free webmail service, it was usually a Russian cracker caching passwords or credit card numbers and on one occasion it was child porn. I dealt with maybe eight or ten such cases in four years or so.
We kept those logs because we wanted to be able to do the right thing in the event of an alleged crime. We didn’t keep them so that witless media giants could build cases against us or compromise the most basic rights of our users. I don’t usually come out on occasions like this but I think that Viacom’s shocking and ignorant raid on YouTube’s user data demands a response. This is legal and moral vandalism on a global scale (national boundaries don’t apply here).
It’s a kind of legalistic ‘fuck you’ from a doomed media monolith, showing the kind of disregard for natural justice, morality and public opinion that leaves people (millions of Viacom’s customers included) open-mouthed in amazement. And I say ‘doomed’ because this is the kind of comically stupid misstep that often marks the beginning of the end for even powerful and profitable businesses like Viacom. What were they thinking? Let’s hope a wiser judge in another court quickly sets this piratical tactic aside.