Online Reputation as Currency and Property

When we speak of virtual economies, the first thing that may come to mind is the immersive 3D worlds like Second Life, etc. But the entire internet can be considered an near-infinite virtual world, where anything that happens is part of the complex “life” of that space. The web of activities that we participate in […]

When we speak of virtual economies, the first thing that may come to mind is the immersive 3D worlds like Second Life, etc. But the entire internet can be considered an near-infinite virtual world, where anything that happens is part of the complex “life” of that space. The web of activities that we participate in leave an indelible trace and builds up a significant virtual persona (for better or worse.) The Yale Law Journal has published an interesting article that discusses how to legally deal with this space where reputation becomes a kind of currency, the substance of value rather than any kind of object or item. They wonder, can reputation be considered property in this instance, with the all the legal recourse that would come with theft or damage?

They explain:

Anonymous blogging and commentary, on the other hand, correspond to the virtual world economies describe above. The reputational property this type of activity generates exists only online, associated with virtual identities that generally are not connected to any real-world identities. What enables this division from the real-world reputational economy is anonymity, which permits bloggers—or even blog commenters—to gain online status, often at the expense of others, without risking their own real-world status. And as with the online and virtual world economies, challenging problems arise when the two reputational economies meet, as happens when anonymous posters (members of the virtual-world-style reputational economy) attack nonanonymous online profiles (members of the online reputational economy). From a practical standpoint, it is difficult, though not impossible, to identify anonymous online attackers, making redress rare. But from a more theoretical standpoint, it is difficult to replace, with currency or any other kind of “old” property, the reputational property they have lost.

The Yale Law Journal: “Reputation as Property in Virtual Economies”

[via Boing Boing]

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