If you are a 'To Long, Did Not Read' type of person: skip to part 2 and ignore part 3 please.
Imagine...in a not so distant future...on a planet far, far...ok, on Earth actually...
Harlow Rozenbaum got picked up by the police, he does not know why and is sitting in his cell rather bewildered, scared and also a little angry. We are talking about Harlow Rozenbaum, one of the most law abiding people in the Kingdom. Someone who always lived by the rules, even scolded others for not doing so. His best friend Jim calls him a rather gray sheep...always following, never doing anything original or exiting, but Harlow likes it that way..
Harlow tells himself not to be scared, the justice system is supposedly infallible since they took the human factor out, but it does not really help. When Harlow wakes up a light is blinking on the touchscreen built into the cell wall. It takes him a moment to figure out what it means and what to do. Somehow, after carefully clicking through a menu, and wondering why they still call it 'clicking' since it just requires pointing at the right option, Harlow gets to a perfectly animated generic face that tells him what he has been charged with: 'Protesting by unlawful means'. In a further explanation he sees they figure he had purposefully not separated his waste, and doing so to protest stringent government laws on this subject.
Harlow is very confused, he always separates his waste and even voted for a party that favored mandatory recycling...and how is not separating waste protesting? The section on evidence does not help much. It shows the little red cutting board, only meant for meat, that Harlow had been missing for a few days now. he had already wondered if it did not accidentally land it in the trash, but certainly not intentionally!! At least the punishment for not recycling is only a fine. Harlow sits back a moment and then remembers the disclaimer he had clicked past, and something about his defense. He seems to get the hang of this rather peculiar government system and soon finds where he can put his defense, but wherever he looks he can not find the option for 'accidental'. Harlow presses the 'Help' option only to find out there seems to not be any way someone can accidentally protest. There are other options, like it was not him, having a permit, claiming religious status, not knowing it was illegal, being a diplomat etc, etc. Nothing Harlow could use, since none of them were true.
Harlow spends the rest of the morning trying to get the situation resolved. After 2 hours of going around in circles chatting to the help-program he finally makes it to what he presumes to be a human being with the odd name Bill Bombay, who sympathizes with him immensely but does not actually help. Harlow is getting desperate since his allotted time on the 'Justice-server' is quickly approaching.
“Mister Harlow J. Rozenbaum No 509.245.18.12.94”, an other perfectly animated face speaks.
Harlow sounds hesitant: 'Yes'
'We have not received a defense form and assume you are pleading no contest!'
Harlow's insistence on being innocent does not make much sense to the Judge-program. Of course, it didn't help Harlow had found out he could use his credit chip to hire a lawyer way to late to actually do so. Panic is not helpful in a situation like this.
The Judge-program finally ends the proceedings with a guilty verdict, since the evidence is very clear in the form of the piece of red plastic found in Harlow's trash and pronounces the sentence: “Since the Facebook campaign by Freedom First to put a symbolic red plastic card in the organic waste had gained quite a large following, we have decided it is needed to make a example out of those offenders who could be traced, so we hereby sentence you to 4 months hard labor.” The Judge-program disappears and is replaced by the same face that had told Harlow what he was accused of: “You have the right to appeal your sentence, your slot is scheduled for 17 weeks from now. Please prepare to be taken to the labor camp.”
Imagine RuneScape 2013.
You log in and find yourself muted, but cant think of any reason why. You basically only chatted a bit to friends wile doing Divination, but certainly nothing offensive or in any other way breaking rules. This happened to my fiance, who is very much into behaving correctly, since behind every RS-character is a real human being. We talked about it in our clan chat and could not really find a reason until a clanmate tells an 'amusing' story about getting herself and a few friends muted by saying some trigger words. It took going to an external method of communication to find out which words: “RuneScape / RS and Walmart “. I thought she was pulling my leg, since there seems to be nothing bad about these words, but I was wrong though. Some gold-selling-site seems to use these words in some combination as their name. My first reaction was: time for Walmart and Jagex to sue them.
Wile my fiance is not 100% sure this is how she got muted, it is very likely. She was chatting about her aunt, who works in a meaningless job at Walmart and might enjoy a little diversion playing our game, especially since Walmart nowadays sells RS membership cards. Let me repeat the last part: Walmart actually sells RuneScape cards. How many times did someone get automuted after telling someone else this little fact?
She could just as easily have been discussing a certain pop song by Katie Perry(1) and have triggered the keywords hot and cold inadvertently, couldn't she? It is impossible to know for sure why she got muted, since until the 'offense' actually gets put in her status and she can not appeal it. The mute could very well be over before an appeal is actually possible...
This is not the first time she got muted. She was also muted while offering an effigy-assist for free, by a P-mod who then PM'd her telling her to not compete with him; he was selling assists. This 'offense' never showed up on her status and the mute was suddenly lifted again, also without any explanation or apology. I can see my fiance's screen so, besides believing her, I can also see what was going on myself. All other stories told to me about unfair, mistaken or accidental mutes I can not verify, so I won't recall them here.
I would like to suggest that Jagex adopt a main principle of real life justice, innocent until proven guilty(2). In other words: do not mute until a J-mod checks the evidence! Especially now that Jagex has new ways to combat gold selling. I realize there is a downside to this, of letting real offenders walk around a little longer, for which I point to the other principle of real life modern justice: "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer"(3). I understand some of you reading this will want to protest about the principle of this and I am happy to debate it on the forums. Here I will only say it is not actually saying we have to let guilty people go free, but much more emphasizing we need to be very thorough and err on the side of caution. Jagex could send an instantaneous message to people reported by P-mods that they have been reported and anything bad they do or say is being recorded. The threat of harder sentences if they continue should stop most from doing so.
The least they could do is send an apology and credit the days in membership, after they determine a mute or ban was a mistake!
Lastly, I do want to emphasize that I believe the vast majority of P-mods are responsible, nice and helpful players and in no way should this be read as an attack on them. The playermods I personally know are actually above averagely nice and fully deserve their crown!
Update: The mute has now passed a few days ago and not a peep from Jagex; no evidence, no possibility to appeal and no apology. Nothing. If this really was an auto-mute for saying the wrong words then posting the evidence seems easy to me, let the program do it as it mutes you. What ever the case is, Jagex should care enough about its customers, be responsible enough, to REVIEW all mutes and give everyone a chance to appeal! Since the system clearly is not perfect at all, it is a disgrace people get muted without seeing any evidence and without their day in Jagex court! After this experience I shudder to think about people getting banned or permanently muted mistakenly.
Now, for those who are not done reading yet, here's the story of my own one day mute, a day I spend sulking in bed. Literally the whole day. Many people I know spend their short mutes 'getting things done', I considered sulking a better use of my time.
I was at Piscatoras and saw a guy bullying someone else. I said something, at least as much out of my own annoyance as to help. He responded by asking me how I knew who he meant with with his comments, even though it was rather obvious. To be clever I told him: "I am testing the new Jagex skill: 'pixel-psychic'” This was construed as me impersonating Jagex staff. The following day I spent on Jagex forums telling people not to be 'community minded' because this would eventually get them muted. Somehow a J-mod read it and took my offense away, but not without warning me to be more careful. The offense returned though when Jagex revamped their system, which after all these years still kinda annoys me, but I do admit I was not as Lillywhite innocent as my fiance is in this case.
I originally had a link here to a video about getting muted for saying different words, but decided to take it out, since the maker is promoting scamming, trolling and on purpose getting others banned. People like that don't deserve the views.