Cyber Rape
  Great Renaming

Case Study

A Rape In Cyberspace

On a Monday night in March 1993, a character named Mr. Bungle entered a crowded living room in LambdaMOO and what he did that night would send a tidle wave through LambdaMOO as well as the rest of the online world. Mr. Bungle's self-description was a crude list of profanity that seemed to exist simply to offend. At around 10pm Mr. Bungle began using a voodoo doll (a device which allows users to take control over the actions of another user) to force another user, legba, into many crude sexual and violent acts. He was forced out of the room, but the he was still able to control legba since the voodoo doll could work between rooms. He turned his attention to several other characters: Starsinger, Bakunin, and Juniper He continued, becoming more and more graphic until a character named Zippy was summoned who had the power to stop Mr. Bungle's actions.

legba, in real life a doctoral candidate from Haverford, Pennsylvania and a LambdaMOO regular was understandably enraged. Two days after the event she posted "I am requesting that Mr. Bungle be toaded for raping Starsinger and I. I have never done this before, and have thought about it for days. He hurt us both." Within 24 hours over 50 people had declared their support for the removal of Mr. Bungle.

LambdaMOO, however, was not ready to deal with such an event. Only a short while earlier, the wizards had announced that they would no longer police social issues. The Mr. Bungle event, thus, left LambdaMOO divided. Many people called for the wizards to return to their original control, many felt that rape had never been explicitly forbidden and thus Mr. Bungle should go free, many felt that people should just ignore such characters by blocking their words from their screens.

It was painfully obvious that something had to be done. Three nights after the incident many of the citizens of LambdaMOO congregated for a discussion of what to do. Mr. Bungle showed up to the meeting which lasted almost three hours. Just before ten o'clock, after most of the participants had left, one of the wizards, JoeFeedback did what people had been waiting for. JoeFeedback, although he had a strong desire to remain removed from such issues, kicked Mr. Bungle off of LambdaMOO forever. He did so quietly and with no celebration, but from that day forth the Mr. Bungle character was no more.

While the character Mr. Bungle was gone, its user was not prevented from returning. The user who had been Mr. Bungle returned a few days later as Dr. Jest. The toading (removal) of Mr. Bungle had only been symbolic, but its effect on the LambdaMOO community could not be forgotten.