1993-03-01 - Re: Future of anonymity (short-term vs. long-term)

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From: pmetzger@shearson.com (Perry E. Metzger)
To: tytso@athena.mit.edu
Message Hash: 887be117d81c786db6f6cd011fabb918e373b9eb7b0cc8b392e118043a7ebeef
Message ID: <9303011908.AA16594@maggie.shearson.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-01 22:06:12 UTC
Raw Date: Mon, 1 Mar 93 14:06:12 PST

Raw message

From: pmetzger@shearson.com (Perry E. Metzger)
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 93 14:06:12 PST
To: tytso@athena.mit.edu
Subject: Re: Future of anonymity (short-term vs. long-term)
Message-ID: <9303011908.AA16594@maggie.shearson.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

> From: Theodore Ts'o <tytso@athena.mit.edu>
> Since John Gilmore, the maintainer of the Cypherpunks mailing list, is
> one of the absolute free speach advocates --- let me ask a question
> directly at you:  What would you do if sometime next week, someone
> decided to flood the Cypherpunks mailing list with a large amount of
> trash postings, routed through different combinations of remailers?  Let
> us assume that the trash is generated by grabbing varying snippets from
> USENET articles, so that current AI technology is not able to
> distinguish a true Cypherpunks submission from the flooded trash
> postings.  What would you do?  Now let's also suppose someone does the
> same thing to all of the GNU newsgroups.  What would you do then?

I know what I would do: I'd rig the list so it only took PGP signed messages,
and then only from official subscribers. They could be anonymous, but
they'd have to be operating under "known" pseudonyms. This is a "closed"
list -- the Extropians list in principle works under much the same
mechanism, only without PGP. This being in place, people who had not joined
could not flood the list, and anyone flooding the list could be cut off.
Note that just because one is in favor of free speech does not mean that
one would necessarily permit arbitrary disruptions in one's living
room, and being the list "owner" I think John would be much within his
rights to stop non-communicative disruptive "noise" postings.

> (Sorry for sounding so cynical, but after being a News admin at MIT for
> a long time, and dealing with a lot of people suffering from severe
> cases of freshmanitis, I have a less than optimistic view about human
> nature.)

I think that instead you should have a less than optimistic view of the
quality of our current netnews software. The problem you list can
be fixed with public key cryptography and some intelligent changes.

For instance, there is an easy fix to the "idiots posting newgroups" messages
that I heard Nat Howard propose years ago -- use public key signatures
on newgroup messages, and each news administrator picks other administrators
he trusts in the same sort of "web of trust" notion that PGP has. If
the newgroup/delgroup message was posted by someone you trust you take
it, otherwise you reject it. Given that, you are practically done.

As another example, its easy to assure that moderated newsgroups are run
just by the moderator -- he public key signs instead of posting with
the "Authorized" header. Easy as pi.