1993-03-04 - Re: You Aren’t [I’m Not]

Header Data

From: Theodore Ts’o <tytso@Athena.MIT.EDU>
To: Eric Hughes <hughes@soda.berkeley.edu>
Message Hash: ef03cdd01d492b313afb5cda812a0590c1e6b243dcc1302facfdd361b63c2c08
Message ID: <9303040426.AA24707@SOS>
Reply To: <9303040002.AA25892@soda.berkeley.edu>
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-04 04:28:12 UTC
Raw Date: Wed, 3 Mar 93 20:28:12 PST

Raw message

From: Theodore Ts'o <tytso@Athena.MIT.EDU>
Date: Wed, 3 Mar 93 20:28:12 PST
To: Eric Hughes <hughes@soda.berkeley.edu>
Subject: Re: You Aren't [I'm Not]
In-Reply-To: <9303040002.AA25892@soda.berkeley.edu>
Message-ID: <9303040426.AA24707@SOS>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

   Date: Wed, 3 Mar 93 16:02:00 -0800
   From: Eric Hughes <hughes@soda.berkeley.edu>

   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.

True, like any other artifact, it can be changed.  But then again,
someone could try to change the status of sound as a "commons" as well.
Perhaps the real problem is that there are a large number of people who
are currently using mailing lists and Usenet newsgroups with the
expectation that there are currently existing controls on the
signal-to-noise levels and protection against mail bombs, which are
being enforced by simple standards of personal (or at worse, site)
accountability.  So in affect, the common usage of these colections of
sites has created a "commons" which you are proposing to take away.

As an artifact, certainly that can be changed; and you are proposing
that we change them.  But then, who should bear the cost of this change?
To bring this back to the house/anonymous bull horn analogy, that would
be like deciding cease considering sound (or rather lack of sound) a
commons, and expecting each home owner, who up until now enjoyed the
relative peace and quiet of their neighborhood, to pay the cost of
losing their sightlines, and needing to put up expensive shielding.

Maybe there are good, sound, policy reasons for making this change.  But
out of fairness, one would think that the agents of change should be
prepared to bear some of cost of that change.  Without that, the
homeowners will not be bought into such a change, and you can hardly
blame them for resisting.  Wouldn't you, in similar situations?

   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.

Well, this really can only happen if a carrier can easily distinguish
anonymous messages from non-anonymous messages.  Out of fairness, I
would argue for putting in a standard header which clearly labels a
message as being anonymous, so that carriers can have the choice of
whether or not they want to carry that message.  Given the earlier
discussion of doing filtering at the server level, this seems to fit
right in.

   >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.

True; but the phone company is a common carrier.  The networks today
aren't.  This could be changed by legislation, and that's something I
would support, for networks.  However, I doubt that such legislation
would actually extend as far as protecting hosts on a network, such as
remailer sites.  It might happen, but it would definitely be a much
harder sell.

   >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.  

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

You misunderstand my argument.  My argument is that if anonymous speech
doesn't cause "real damage", then your proposed legislation isn't
necessary, since real damage is a requirement for a successful libel
action.  On the other hand, if it does cause "real damage", then your
proposed legislation would prevent someone who had been damaged from
obtaining redress.  So I would argue that such legislation would be bad
public policy.

						- Ted