WA Security Council fourth rule controversy
The fourth rule controversy is an incident in WA Security Council politics relating to the moderators' decision to institute a new rule banning out-of-character Commend or Condemn proposals, prompting an indignant protest from gameplayers insisting the new rule cramps on their distinctive, quasi-OOC style of play. The campaign to repeal the new rule began with its introduction by Ardchoille in April 2010, and continued for months until the rule was reworded to players' satisfaction.
NS gameplayers have thrived on the Security Council because of the lack of concrete rules dictating what can be submitted to it. Since the SC's creation, however, a few minor mod-enforced rules have arisen to prevent overreaching by the Council. These three rules are: 1) no commending mods for doing their jobs; 2) no condemning players for actions "that can and should be dealt with in another forum, probably moderation"; and 3) proposals may only commend or condemn, nothing else. Thus the new rule regarding OOC proposals has been called the fourth rule, or Rule 4. The fourth rule requires that Commend or Condemn proposals be worded in such a way that they can be logically read as acknowledging the actions of nations in a global setting. Proposals relating to actions by the players themselves, as opposed to roleplayed actions of their nations, are still allowed, but the language must be compliant with fourth-rule requirements. As OOC proposals have been a staple of SC politics since the branch's formation, gameplayers viewed the rule as an unwelcome infringement on the way they play the game.
Perhaps motivated by a Commendation proposal that was actually meant to troll another player, Ardchoille abruptly announced on April 22, 2010 that a new rule had been agreed upon by the moderators. It initially read:
- 4. Your proposal [was illegal if it] was written entirely Out Of Character, either by
- (a) referring to the player of the nation rather than to the nation itself, or
- (b) writing in the first person (eg, "I think", "I feel", "I believe". Try "my nation feels", "my government believes", etc.)
- Remember that C&Cs are meant to be nations commenting on the actions of other nations at an international level. Nation-to-nation disagreements can often be met by sending a diplomatic note, calling their ambassador in to protest, withdrawing your ambassadors or expelling theirs.
The rules thread included an official explanation for the rule:
- A year of allowing "player behind" proposals has made it clear that, though the existing successful resolutions in this format were genuine, Condemnations using Out of Character (OOC) phrasing are too often simply excuses to flame an individual player. Commendations and Condemnations must therefore be written in the same fashion as the Liberation category, referring to the actions of a nation in the NationStates world, and must be described in terms appropriate to a nation.
- If players find this hard to do, they should start a Drafting thread in the SC forum seeking the help of other players.
- This does not invalidate resolutions passed under the previous ruling, which now confer a unique distinction on their holders.
While Ardchoille claimed that the rule was intended to make it easier to identify trolling and other forms of abuse in proposals, gameplayers (chiefly Feeder residents and raider/defender types) complained that it would make commending and condemning for gameplay acts more difficult. They speculated that the rule was tailored for roleplayers, who rarely use the Security Council. Ardchoille countered that the rule had been the desire of game admins since the SC was created,  and that she had resisted implementing it until it became clear that allowing OOC proposals encouraged trolling. When she explained (and later demonstrated) that gameplay-related proposals would still be legal, just not terms that unambiguously identified NationStates as a game ("players," "offsite forums," etc.), players such as Naivetry and Topid admitted they could live with the rule.  
The debate was characterized by the ongoing feud between gameplayers and General Assembly participants, who operate under a much more complex ruleset and saw no problem with imposing stricter standards for proposal-writing on the SC. As GA members had detested the SC since its creation, their motives were questioned, and the debate grew so heated that the initial forum topic dedicated to the fourth-rule discussion had to be locked.
This did not end gameplayers' desire to see the fourth rule removed. They formed the Third Wall Bloc (3WB) -- so named because they opposed imposing a fourth wall on the SC -- and vowed to use their considerable influence in WA voting to defeat all SC proposals that were fourth-rule compliant. Ironically, the first proposal to be targeted by this campaign was a Commendation for A mean old man, who had helped found the 3WB. A mean old man consented to the defeat of his own Commendation, but complained that he felt "used" by the end of the floor debate.  Commend A mean old man failed by one of the largest margins in SC history.
3WB's campaign was blunted by a lack of resolutions to defeat (as resolution-writers were timid about the new rule), and insistence from moderators and administrators that the rule would not be removed.   In the meantime, SC players and moderators hammered out compromise language for the fourth rule, which changed its wording if not necessarily its effect. Game admin [violet] endorsed the compromise version of the rule. 
While activity within 3WB eventually petered out, some gameplayers continued to condemn the fourth rule and insisted they would vote against all SC resolutions until it was dropped. The feud between GA and SC players diminished somewhat as the controversy faded, excepting an incident wherein much of the contents of the Antarctic Oasis private forums were leaked  -- ironically on the same week that the SC approved a resolution condemning perpetrators of (among other offenses) offsite-forum espionage.  After Antarctic Oasis' Commendation was repealed, the two player communities reverted to virtually ignoring each other.
- 4th rule clarification - initial discussion on the controversial new rule
- Petition to remove Rule 4 - *signs the petition* Wow! I'm convinced!
- The Third Wall Bloc (3WB) - fourth-rule opponents prove they have a lot of votes...
- Commend "A mean old man" - ...and are willing to use them to humiliate one of their friends
- Rule 4, split from Commend "A mean old man" - ...and it just goes on...
- R4 discussion, take two - ...and on...