Note: On the basis of comments received, I’ve added links to past articles on age verification that will hopefully provide additional context.
On Monday July 9th, Linden Lab made substantial revisions to the SL Age Verification system.
The Age Verification section of the Dashboard Account services has been removed, and the Age-restricted Content section of the SL Knowledge Base has been revised. The key change is that the ability to access adult content is now determined on the basis of the date-of-birth a user supplies during the account sign-up process, as the Knowledge Base article makes clear:
“When you register for Second Life, you provide your birth date, because you are required to be at least 16 years old. If you are 13-15 years old, you may be allowed if you are restricted to the estate of a sponsoring organization. For more information, see Teens in Second Life.
“To access adult content, you must be at least 18 years old.”
Age Verification: the old (l) and gone from the new (r)
These changes mean that age verification is now the de facto means of determining a user’s ability to access adult content – the “either / or” link with having payment information on file (PIOF) is broken. While land holders can still additionally control access to their land by restricting it to those with PIOF, the new policy makes it clear that they must set access to those aged 18 or over if they have any adult content:
“Limiting land access by age
“Estate and parcel owners of adult-rated regions must limit access to Residents who are 18 years of age or older. Underage Residents are blocked from entry and receive a notification to this effect.”
In line with this,changes have been made to both the ESTATE tab in the REGION / ESTATE floater and to the ABOUT LAND floater in the latest Beta and Development viewer releases (and may already be in some recent TPV updates) – expect to see the changes in all viewers in the near future.
How the About Land floater has been updated to reflect the new policy. As it was (top) and as it will shortly appear in viewers (bottom) - from the latest SL Dev viewer
At the same time, the land maturity ratings have been updated to replace references to age verification with the term “at least 18 years old”. Users must still set their content preferences within the viewer in order to access all land ratings – again providing their date-of-birth allows them to do so.
Following the change, users immediately began experiencing issues with accessing adult-rated land, with some finding they could now only set viewer preferences to GM where they were once GMA, others apparently finding they were unable to access adult content where they once could and so on. Reasons for the problems are unclear – but they were enough for LL to issue a Grid Status update on the 9th as more issues were reported:
“Age Verification Error
“[Posted 2:40pm PDT, 09 July 2012] We are aware that there are some issues with trying to access restricted areas of the grid. We are looking into the cause and expect this issue to be resolved by the end of the day. In the meantime if you need assistance with verifying your age, please contact support.”
Whether the situation was the cause of the “unscheduled maintenance” which commenced not long after is subject to speculation. Currently, it is unclear as to whether all issues have been properly resolved.
User issues aside (and without trivialising them), this would appear to be an attempt to streamline the age verification process and make it less user-intrusive (using sign-up DoB rather than asking users to manually verify). Some of the thinking here may also be that under-18s could be signing-up under supervision (parental / teacher), so removal of the Age Verification option from the account dashboard does remove the temptation for young minds to alter things after-the-fact.
What is regretful is that Linden Lab has made no formal announcement on the change ahead of time. There was (again) nothing on the blogs or posted (so far as I can tell) to the forums. Thus, users have been left to either stumble on the changes by studying the Knowledge Base or through a head-on collision with problems resulting from the change, leaving them confused and not a little upset / angry.
With thanks to Nyll Bergbahn.