1994-02-15 - Re: The Difficulty of Source Level Blocking

Header Data

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
To: tytso@ATHENA.MIT.EDU (Theodore Ts’o)
Message Hash: 94d66f24a3ad193abcc7e401d84a5593f580c15173309fdf1a4b73eedb01107c
Message ID: <199402152125.NAA28696@mail.netcom.com>
Reply To: <9402152054.AA07071@tsx-11.MIT.EDU>
UTC Datetime: 1994-02-15 21:31:42 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 15 Feb 94 13:31:42 PST

Raw message

From: tcmay@netcom.com (Timothy C. May)
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 94 13:31:42 PST
To: tytso@ATHENA.MIT.EDU (Theodore Ts'o)
Subject: Re: The Difficulty of Source Level Blocking
In-Reply-To: <9402152054.AA07071@tsx-11.MIT.EDU>
Message-ID: <199402152125.NAA28696@mail.netcom.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Ted Ts'o writes:

> I've heard this assertion made a large number of times --- that if the
> poster had to pay for the cost of a posting, that all of our problems
> would go away (or at least a lot of them would).

Some problems will be lessened, some will remain. Nothing is perfect,
but digital postage is certainly a step in the right direction....it
at least makes the process of posting and mailing less "free" than it
currently is. (As to why remailing should _not_ be free, I'll not get
into this political issue here. Suffice it to say that nothing is
completely free--someone pays. Right now, the remailer operators are
eating the costs.)

> I'm not convinced they would; perhaps it is time to start exploring this
> assumption.  Digital postage solves the problem that it becomes
> expensive for someone to flood a mailing list or a newsgroup with 10,000
> annoying messages.  But all it does is disenfranchise the poor; the rich
> would still be able to make themselves a nuisance.  How do you defend
> against someone like Detweiler if he has the resources of a Donald
> Trump, or a Bill Gates?

A "problem" we can't solve. Placing a ad in a newspaper costs 10 bucks
or so, for example. Does this "disenfranchise" the poor? Does the fact
that Bill Gates could probably buy the nation's five largest papers
mean that ads should be free? Paid for by whom? I can't pursue this
topic any further here--it's too political for the list to have to bear.

> Also, how much do you charge?  For example, Detweiler's Blacknet posting
> only went to some 20-odd newsgroups, and yet it was able to do a lot of
> damage.  If you charge $1 a message, then for a mere $20, he was able to
> cause a lot of damage and consternation on the net.  If you start
> charging $10 a message or more, legitimate users will be hurt, since
> they will now have to pay this large amount of money.  And in the long
> run, it still doesn't work, since Detweiler wasn't even being very
> efficient.  For example, he could have sent a GIF image containing kiddy
> porn or bondage pictures to soc.women; then the sh*t would have really
> hit the fan.  A single message can do quite a lot of damage.

Agreed, it doesn't solve all problems. 

And part of the problem lies in Usenet itself, as we have been
discussing. The "broadcast" model, without any form of postage along
the way, means that any message can in principle be sent to thousands
of sites (though dial-in users are of couse not obligated to read
these posts, and hence don't have to incur expenses). 

I fully agree that no single price for a "stamp" could wipe out the
problem. Even setting the price at $100 would be insufficient for a
determined disruptor to find the juiciest exmaple of child porn and
then pay the $100 to have it remailed to a site or newsgroup which
would almost certainly guarantee massive repercussions. This could be
child porn, pet torture (recall the "Kitty in a Blender" posts on
rec.pets a year or so back), detailed military secrets, personal
dossiers on a leading government official, whatever.

> Digital postage alone does not solve the accountability problem.

No one has claimed this. All that has been claimed is that it raises
the costs of flooding a bit. A step in the right direction.

Long range, Usenet will likely be restructured in some way so that
users choose what they wish to receive.

Actually, I think the "volume" arguements--that Detweiler consumed too
much volume--are wrong-headed. His posts added infinitesimally to the
hundreds of megabytes a day flowing throught the system. I looked at
the newsgroups Hal mentioned that the BlackNet piece went out to, and
the posts were lost in the noise. Granted, they were "off subject,"
but so are a lot of posts.

I'm not minimizing the downsides, just pointing out that the angry
reactions were more likely related to the subject material itself and
the total irrelevance to the "diabetes" and "frg" groups than to the
slight increase in volume the posts caused.

--Tim May

Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
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