1993-03-04 - You Aren’t [I’m Not]

Header Data

From: Eric Hughes <hughes@soda.berkeley.edu>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 8743ebfb1d124c0e669f0fbe7a883cb99bf66ecc8e013786ca33da2ed4f75b66
Message ID: <9303040002.AA25892@soda.berkeley.edu>
Reply To: <9303032127.AA19605@SOS>
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-04 00:05:11 UTC
Raw Date: Wed, 3 Mar 93 16:05:11 PST

Raw message

From: Eric Hughes <hughes@soda.berkeley.edu>
Date: Wed, 3 Mar 93 16:05:11 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: You Aren't [I'm Not]
In-Reply-To: <9303032127.AA19605@SOS>
Message-ID: <9303040002.AA25892@soda.berkeley.edu>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

I thank Ted for such a clear reply.

He writes:
>Sorry for not being clear; I was merely speculating on how the Real
>World might react to the presense of remailers.  I actually think this
>might be a reasonable response, and perhaps even a likely one.

This was the other interpretation I came up with, yet it did not seem
as likely to me as the one I assumed.  Excuse me if I ever implied you
were a freedom-hating, Dorothy-Denning-loving crypto-fascist. ;-)

Yes, there are plenty of large organizations who sue at the drop of a
hat.  Yes, it is likely that remailer operators would get sued.  I do
think, however, there are legislative and judicial defenses.

>Let's cast this into a physical world example.  
	[anonymous bullhorn example deleted]

The place that this example breaks down is that silence is a commons,
and a communications network is not.  Society finds it profitable to
break up control of land into ownerships.  It is not, on the other
hand, profitable to do so with airspace as a sound-carrying medium,
because the cost of shielding, in addition to being expensive, looks
awful.  Thus sound has remained a commons wherein all maintain an
interest equal to their proximity.

A communications network, however, is an artifact, _i.e._ an object
created by design and technology.  As such it has no status as commons
unless the owners agree to grant it such.  One might argue that the
aggregate actions of backbone sites create such a commons.  Granted,
but the fact remains that the transmission of data in a particular way
or in a particular form or structure is not fundamental to the medium.
Like any other artifact, it can be changed.

Furthermore, the analogy of shouting at the neighbors does not
accurately reflect the facts of reception.  The sound from a
loudspeaker cannot be silenced except with great expenditure and loss
of sightline.  The speech of an anonymous posting source can be easily
silenced with filter.  There is a salient difference in effort here.

The loudspeaker example is that of an additive medium; all sounds come
over the same channel.  A telecommunications network, however, is on
the other end of the spectrum; every message comes in separately.  The
electronic medium is the most separable there is.  Filtering is not
possible for the loudspeaker; it is easy for the messages.

And again, no one requires a carrier to carry anonymous messages.
Practically speaking, you might easily end up with a situation like
the alt.* hierarchy, where only certain subnets agree to exchange
anonymous traffic.  I suspect this is inevitable in the short term.

>On the other hand, if you receive crank
>calls, you are entitled to call your phone company, and they will make
>an attempt track down the crank caller and turn over his identity to the
>police, with the charge of harassment.

But the phone company is not held liable when the call was made from a
pay phone.

>Whether or not it "shouldn't exist" is somewhat irrelevant, don't you
>think?  If people really want to put them up, they're going to exist.

I don't think it is irrelevant.  If we allow each person unlimited
personal freedom, that freedom include the freedom not to cooperate
with those one disagrees with.  Since the power of groups is larger
than the power of individuals, there is no such thing as unlimited
personal action.  To wit: "You may do what you like, but I don't have
to help, and I may actively hinder you."

>In any case, I don't believe the benefits of strong anonymity are worth
>the negative consequences, and that most of the benfits of strong
>anonymity are also provided by weak anonymity.  

Here is where we differ.  I do believe that strong anonymity is
desirable.  I believe that weak anonymity is undesirable for the same
reason that I believe key registration is undesirable.  (That said, I
think weak anonymity is not nearly as dangerous as key registration.)
The similarity is this: that an action performed in expectation of one
setting (privacy or anonymity) is later found to have been performed
in another.

[re: legislative protections of anonymous speech.]
>One can pass legislation proclaiming this to be the case; legislation
>has been passed declaring PI to be 3.  The question is whether or not
>this is a really a true statement the way the human mind works in

A law which states that from now on that pi will be three does not
change the actual ratio of the circumference to the diameter.  A law
which says that certain facts of a situation are to be considered in a
certain way in a court of law does, in fact, change the way those
facts are considered.  

If someone makes a claim and it is rejected because of protecting
legislation, then even if the person was offended, the law still says
there is no redress.  If you declared that claims of offense are to be
disallowed, then they are disallowed, regardless of whatever perceived
or even actual harm there is.

Can such legislation could be passed?  There's the rub.  We can
certainly work for it.

>While tort law often seems to bear little or no resemblence to
>the outside world, it is supposed to based on the real world.

It is meant to describe society's reaction to the facts of the real
world, not to describe the facts themselves.

>On the other hand, if it is true that people will believe statements
>made anonymously, and so real damage can be done as a result, then the
>person who has been wronged should have every right to obtain
>compensation for those damages.  

Any such legislation would not claim that people did or did not
believe them.  It would state that regardless of whether they did or
not, that as a matter of public policy it would not matter.

Your statement begs the question of whether anonymous speech can
cause "real damage."  I will leave this to another discussion.