1993-03-01 - Re: A Modest Proposal

Header Data

From: Eric Hughes <hughes@soda.berkeley.edu>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: e6d47c0dbeaac2547704f986f638e8597807c9a5ce86df8dcb5a91d958f424a8
Message ID: <9303010536.AA07263@soda.berkeley.edu>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-01 05:40:04 UTC
Raw Date: Sun, 28 Feb 93 21:40:04 PST

Raw message

From: Eric Hughes <hughes@soda.berkeley.edu>
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 93 21:40:04 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re: A Modest Proposal
Message-ID: <9303010536.AA07263@soda.berkeley.edu>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

I wrote:
>Acknowledgement that a procedure is an exigency does not make that
>procedure desirable of itself.  All differential carriage based on
>content is censorship.  I acknowledge the exigency of certain forms of
>censorship in currently deployed anonymous systems.

A member of the list wrote back to me to say that this went over his
head because he wasn't a lawyer.  I am not a lawyer either.  Since a
compact statement has been too compact, allow me to be more verbose.

An exigency is something you do because you have to in order to
accomplish something else.  It's not something you do because someone
told you to or because you promised to do it.  Exigencies, if you
don't like them, are often called 'necessary evils,' with all the
connotations of that phrase.  In this case, restrictions on remailers
are an exigency, something you might have to do to stay on the net.

Now just because you have to do something doesn't mean that's a good
thing.  In California, you have to give out your thumbprint in order
to get a driver's license.  Giving the thumbprint is an exigency.  I
did not want to do that; I don't think it's a good thing; I did it
anyway because I wanted a driver's license more than I wanted my
thumbprint not to be digitized.

Differential means that two things are not the same and has the
connotation that one is preferable to the other.  Carriage is the noun
form of the verb 'to carry' and in this context refers to the act of
carrying an electronic message.  Thus differential carriage is
carrying some messages preferentially, such as refusing to mail to or
from a particular site, or to delay or alter some messages but not

I claim that all differential carriage where the differences in how
the messages are carried arise from the content (or expected content)
of those messages is, in fact, censorship and should be called such.
If am operate an anonymous service and I refuse to pass a message
because someone has complained about it, I have exercised a preference
and created a difference in the way I treat the message.  I have
exercised censorship over that message.  I have presented my service
as a public utility, and yet I have created a difference in how I
treat messages.  My domain of potential censorship is not large, but
it is there.

It is an unfortunate fact of the internet that there will be pressure
brought to bear against the operators of anonymous remailers, and that
in the interim such pressure might be strong enough to force such
operators off the net.  Some restrictions against content might be
necessary to keep these services online.  If so, then I believe that
these restriction should be implemented.  I'd rather have the services

Nonetheless, I deplore any such restrictions.

And if it not perfectly clear by now, let me finally state that I am
in agreement with Lance Detweiler on this point, that some restriction
may be necessary in order to keep anonymous services online.  But that
said, I still don't like it.

I will continue to dislike it, and I will work to make the necessity
for restrictions disappear.