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anon.penet.fi bites the dust
Today I posted the attached message to various newsgroups. I still plan
to continue mail service, and my work on the alt.whistleblowers project.
The anonymous posting service at anon.penet.fi has been closed down. Postings
to netnews and mail to arbitrary addresses has been blocked.
Mail to anonymous users will still be supported, so anon.penet.fi can be
used as an anonymous P.O.Box service.
Due to the lawsuit-intensive climate in the US, many anonymous services have
been short-lived. By setting up anon.penet.fi in Finland, I hoped to create
a more stable service. Anon.penet.fi managed to stay in operation for almost
five months. The service was protected from most of the usual problems that
had forced other services to shut down. But there are always going to be
ways to stop something as controversial as an anon service. In this case, a
very well-known and extremely highly regarded net personality managed to
contact exactly the right people to create a situation where it is
politically impossible for me to continue running the service.
But of course this political situation is mainly caused by the abuse of the
network that a very small minority of anon users engaged in. This small
group of immature and thoughtless individuals (mainly users from US
universities) caused much aggravation and negative feelings towards the
service. This is especially unfortunate considering these people really are
a minuscule minority of anon users. The latest statistics from the service
show 18203 registered users, 3500 messages per day on the average, and
postings to 576 newsgroups. Of these users, I have received complaints
involving postings from 57 anonymous users, and, of these, been forced to
block only 8 users who continued their abuse despite a warning from me.
In retrospect I realize that I have been guilty to keeping a far too low
profile on the network, prefering to deal with the abuse cases privately
instead of making strong public statements. Unfortunately I realized this
only a couple of days before being forced to shut down the service, but the
results of a single posting to alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.d gave very
positive results. I take full blaim for my failure to realize the
psychological effects of a strongly stated, publicly visible display of
policy with regards to the abuse cases. For this I have to apologize to the
whole net community.
On the other hand I am deeply concerned by the fact that the strongest
opposition to the service didn't come from users but from network
administrators. I don't think sysadmins have a god-given mandate to
dictate what's good for the users and what's not. A lot of users have
contacted me to thank me for the service, describing situations where
anonymity has been crucial, but I could never have imagined in my wildest
dreams. At the same time quite a few network administrators have made
comments like "I can't imagine any valid use for anonymity on the net" and
"The only use for anonymity is to harrass and terrorize the net".
Nevertheless, I really want to apologize both to all the users on the
network who have suffered from the abusive misuse of the server, and to all
the users who have come to rely on the service. Again, I take full
responsibility for what has happened.