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Masakazu Kojima (Masa), known within the virtual world of Second Life as leader of the controversial and at times infamous W-Hat group, has announced via the W-Hat website that his account had been permanently banned from the SL service by Linden Lab.  The online service cites “severe or repeated violations of the Terms of Service” but in their email to Masakazu did not detail what those violations were.

W-Hat was originally created in Second Life in 2004 for members of the forums at the popular Something Awful web site.  W-Hat members referred to themselves as “goons”, or “SA goons”.  They were well known for their general interest in that which others find offensive, and the group attracted wide range of people, from the merely curious to some of the worst griefers Second Life has ever known. Members of W-Hat have created hacked clients, committed content theft, and even created sim crashing weapons.  The sim crashers used by the Patriotic Nigras were based on the original ones created by W-Hat.

However, the FAQ page on the W-Hat web site states that none of these things are condoned or are the official policy of W-Hat, and that people who engaged in this activity were removed from the group whenever they were discovered.

The infamous Voted 5 group was comprised primarily of former W-Hat members who were invited to leave because their activities cast W-Hat in a bad light and put the group at risk.  Plastic Duck, the creator of both the first truly effective sim crasher weapon and creator of the first megaprims (distributed via his alternate account, Gene Replacement) was one of these.  Plastic Duck was also responsible for the discovery and correction of a critical bug in the Linden Lab monetary system which could have destroyed the entire economy.  Plastic Duck could have simply exploited the flaw, but instead worked with Linden Lab to identify and correct it before it became a problem.  Plastic Duck lost his account permanently immediately following an interview on a griefer-friendly blog site in February of this year.

Masa’s primary interest seems to have been technical, and while the official W-Hat policy was against griefer and racist activity within the group, this same activity went largely unmoderated, thus leading to W-Hat’s overall unsavory reputation.

In an email interview with SCIFI.radio, Masa shared what information she had on the possible circumstances surrounding her banishment and the future of W-Hat:

KR: Lets start off with the big question people are asking, what exactly happened? Do you know why you were banned?

Masa: I don’t know. I hadn’t logged in since February, as confirmed by phone support. It was on my billing day so I thought there may have been a credit card issue, but they said there was not. They had me create a “case” on the support website. Here was the response to my attempt to appeal the termination or find out what I did:

====
Hello,
We regret to inform you that Linden Lab has terminated your access to
the Second Life virtual world. Because you have severely or repeatedly
violated the Second Life Terms of Service or Community Standards, your
account and any alternate Second Life accounts are now permanently
inaccessible.

What happens to your Second Life account holdings?
When terminating Second Life accounts, we remove all associated
holdings. There will be no refunds or exchanges for any unused time on
your subscription, Island purchases, Linden Dollars, or inworld
objects, items, or content.

Sincerely,
Customer Support
Linden Lab
====

Masa: The only guess I have is that someone created offensive content on one of the remaining plots of group land, and I was banned for it.

KR: Will you be attempting to return to Second Life?

Masa: No.

KR:Several members of the permabanned Woodbury University /Wrong Hands griefer group and other individuals known to be allied with griefing groups in SL have gained officer status in the W-Hat group, and are inviting people at random in what appears to be some of personal vendetta, someone with whom they have some enmity. We know that Plastic Duck left W-Hat long ago. Do you know how they gained access and why they might be doing this, and is there anything at this point that you or anyone can do about it?

Masa: After I sold our sim, someone offered to let us use one of theirs, and I let them be an officer of the group. They invited some people, who invited some people, and so on. I was the only owner of the group and the only one with permissions to change roles. New officers can be invited, and nobody can demote or eject them.

KR: The other major question is, what happens now? Is the W-Hat group to be shut down, and how will this change W-Hat’s nature as a group or an organization?

Masa: W-Hat was already largely inactive. The group will probably be disbanded. The website and projects will remain as-is for the foreseeable future.

KR: W-Hat appears to have had its genesis outside of Second Life – what’s your next move? What do you envision W-Hat becoming in the future?

Masa: There are SA goon groups in every game there is. I do not run or intend to start any others. Feel free to ask anything about the group. This is all I have left of the 7 years of my life that LL deleted. I opened another case which has not been answered yet, here is the content (terse because it’s limited to 1000 characters):

====
I am trying to appeal the termination of my account on 2011-05-17.

I have not severely nor repeatedly violated the TOS or CS. My account
was in good standing for over 7 years before being suddenly
terminated.

I was suspended once, on 2010-02-01, because someone created offensive
content in my sim. It was lifted but I was warned about future
incidents. (4051-7322562)

After that I sold my sim, gave away most of my mainland holdings,
disabled object creation on and gave others in my group permissions to
sell the remaining group land.

My last login was in Feb 2011 according to phone support. I do not
have any alternate accounts. I do not have the Second Life client
software installed.

I use my account to provide infrastructure and support via IM for the
services I provide to LSL developers (since 2006) at
http://w-hat.com/. This is all I want to continue to be able to do.

If nothing else, please disband my group “W-Hat”, as it has fallen into chaos.
====

KR: Touching on the technical side of W-Hat for a moment, despite the dubious reputation you and your people have been laden with over the years, what many may not know is that your group has actually contributed in a significant and positive way to Second Life.

The Name2Key database created and maintained by W-Hat ended up being one of the most important technical contributions to SL in its history. Can you talk about how that came to be and the history of the project, and where it might be going now that you’ve lost your main account? And, the mystery on many people’s minds, how did you manage to be so effective at gathering new keys of freshly minted avatars?

Masa: The database relies on keys being submitted with the scanner script on the page. They are verified by in-world objects that belong to me, which are currently still present and working normally even though my account has been terminated. If they are removed I will have to find someone else to rewrite and redeploy them, and/or do verification from the search website instead.

Fun fact: the name2key database servers 20-40 requests per second, 24/7.

12:00AM up 2438 days, 22:08, 1 user, load averages: 1.50, 1.45, 1.41

 

W-Hat’s Name2Key database is still active, and is not especially dependent on Masakazu Kojima’s presence in Second Life for its continued operation. It is used by thousands of commercial enterprises and scripters all over Second Life, and represents a substantial contribution to the Second Life economy.  This was offset by W-Hat being perceived as either unable or unwilling to do something about their high griefer contingent within the group, to the point where griefing in Second Life and W-Hat had become nearly synonymous terms.  From the FAQ page on the W-Hat web site one could draw the conclusion that the situation was beyond their control.  It is not possible to state with certainty what the truth is one way or the other.

SCIFI.radio would like to thank Masakazu Kojima for taking time to respond to our questions.

Links

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This is a developing story. Stay tuned to SCIFI.radio for further updates!

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