ACORN in Second Life?

Community Organizing Ideas and Issues

New Orleans  One of the things I am certain is a mistake is to claim that I am up to date about the wild world of the web (www!).   Recently a couple of emails alerted me to a level of virtual weirdness that seemed both startling and bizarre. 

     Here’s the bottom line.  Seems there is something called “Second Life,” which is a virtual community with over 1 million “residents.”  Second Life was created by a former chief technology officer for RealNetworks and Mitch Kapor, who founded Lotus, the software developer.  From the reference in wikipedia (now I do sound hip, huh?), I found out the following:  “Second Life is one of several virtual worlds that have been inspired by the science fiction novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and the Cyberpunk literary movement. The stated goal of Linden Lab is to create a world like the metaverse described in the novel Snow Crash, a user-defined world of general use in which people can interact, play, do business, and otherwise communicate.”  I’m not sure exactly what that all means, but it is very serious to a lot of people, as I was recently informed by a correspondent from Phoenix.

     It seems that someone calling himself (herself?) “Jose” is organizing ACORN chapters in this city of a million among the “residents” as the players are called.  My correspondent is aware enough about ACORN to know this is nowhere close to the real deal, and is worried that “Jose” is collecting these Linden “dollars” and converting them into real money, also known as United States dollars in some kind of scam.  You get the message – this is bad!

     Here’s more from my friend in Phoenix:

—– Original Message —–
From:  Phoenix Friend
Sent: Saturday, November 18, 2006 9:09 PM
Subject: Fraudulent use of the ACORN name
Dear chief organizer,
I don’t know if you are aware of this, but there is a person claiming to be an ACORN organizer in the virtual world of Second Life. ( Virtual worlds like this one are becoming more common all the time and are normally treated as a coherrent community.Second Lifeis one of the largest virtual worlds, visited by over a million people from around the real world. This is similar in scale to organizing a chapter in a large city.

Regular ACORN activities have been taking place. We held root camps here. I met several organizers from around the USA this way. Hower, I don’t believe these were officially sanctioned root camps. They were not organized the same way as real-world root camps. This supposed organizer doesn’t even seem to understand ACORN’s goals at all. He seems to think we’re just about electing democrats to office and nothing more. The genuine ACORN members I’ve met in Second Life are mostly unaware of what’s really going on here.

What I’ve recently discovered about the Second Life ACORN chapter is that the organizer is using ACORN to make virtual money within Second Life, by dishonest means, at the expense of the newest community members. It may seem pretty minor to you, but it’s a very big deal to the people who play Second Life. This world has a thriving economy, with virtual money that can be traded on the open market for real world American dollars, which means this person could be cashing in the virtual money to make a real world profit. It actually reminds me of some cases I worked on with my local ACORN chapter in Phoenix – Wal Mart and Food City. Those who can least afford it are offered a completely worthless product, with no obvious alternative products in sight.

What the organizer is doing is to sell how-to books that don’t actually tell you how to do anything. There’s lots of hype on a sign board used to sell the books, but the information inside is nothing more than how to open a menu or a list of references to other people’s work available on line.

The worst part is, he created the ACORN group and set the home location to his virtual land in Second Life, then posted ads for the ACORN group so that people familiar with ACORN in the real world will come to his store and see his how-to books. As far as I can tell, this is his main motive for creating an ACORN chapter in Second Life. And if you think this is a waste of time, think again. The virtual money he steals this way in Second Life can be sold on the internet for real American dollars!

I suggest you contact the developers of Second Life at and ask them to force this person to cease the use of the ACORN name immediately. The name he uses in game is Jose Rote. If you can discover his real name, I believe this would be worth a real-world lawsuit as well. This is doing a lot of damage to ACORN’s reputation.
You can contact them through their website ( or by calling 1-800-961-6851.

I hope you can get something done about him soon. He kicks several people out of ACORN every day for demanding refunds.

Your Friend in Phoenix

(I know who she is, but I’m not telling – I don’t want her kicked out!)

And, there’s more?.

 Let me know if you need more information. There ARE legitimate ACORN members in Second Life, including at least two legitimate organizers. We just don’t have any control over what Jose does with the group because of the way it’s set up.
I would definately let you know his real-life identity if I had access to that information. Your lawyers can probably force Linden Labs to turn that info over, though.

Wow! This is all news to me!
Will get counsel on it immediately.

 So, what’s a techno-peasant to do?  Clearly, this is both flattering in that it proves that even in virtual world people understand that they need ACORN chapters in their neighborhoods if they are going to get something done.  But, it is also disturbing to think that people could be ripped off with fake dues and fake fundraisers or forced out for demanding refunds (of Linden dollars, I guess?). 

 And, what is a “root camp” and what might possibly happen there?  One hesitates to ask, but inquiring minds need to know.

 Who can help on this mystery? 

 What is the best advice?  We don’t mind being virtual, but how do we get Linden Labs and the enterprising “Jose” to do right?

 If you are one of the ACORN organizers or members involved, we’re looking for some direction!