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Suggestions for InfoHighway Patrol dealing with abusive (cr)users



Alright, CP's, I've got a humorous one for you.  The author is Gordon
McLachlan ([email protected]), and the article appeared in the
"Crosswired" column of May 1994 Vol. 5 No. 5 Lan Computing.  Hope it gives
you a chuckle.  (Unofficially included below) 

"Cane the Internet Loons"

According to University of Michigan President James Duderstadt, it was a
"monstrous act." An act that "made a mockery of the values of civility we
hold dear." Was it a brutal campus murder?  A rape?  An assault?  Did they
lose a football game to Ohio State?  Nope.  It was email with the intent
to inflict great psychological injury.  

In early April, someone apparently ripped off a Michigan student's password
and made offencive racial and ethnic slurs to several Internet Usenet
newsgroups.  According to a written statement by university officials, this
event "offended, hurt and frightened" many faculty, staff and students.  

Unfortunately the Internet has no official rules, and no way to effectively
punish computerized criminals such as the person who sent these hurtful
messages.  Underlying Internet etiquette is the realization that the net
hovers somewhere between anarchy and democracy.  In effect this means you
can say anything you want, but if you say the wrong thing, society's only
recourse is to assemble an unruly mob at your electronic doorway to burn
you out.  

If your transgression of netiquette is severe enough, you will be pilloried
in public by your fellows and sent a barrage of hate mail.  If you persist
in being a pain in the ass, the system administrator at your home site
will be flooded with mail telling him to cut you off.  

In the Michigan incident, this response was insufficient.  All the
well-meaning hate mail from the defenders of the net was sent to the wrong
guy - the poor physics major who had his password stolen.  Despite rapid
action by the administration to deplore the act, write an apologetic
missive to post on the net, and have "various units {sponsor} community
forums where we can share our concerns," there isn't much anyone can do.  

Well, to hell with sharing our concerns.  A monstrous act deserves a
monstrous response.  In Singapore, they'd hunt the perpetrator down and
cane him.  And if caning is good enough for a kid from Ohio who vandalizes
cars, its good enough for a kid from Michigan who offends sensitive network
types.  

Luckily our opportunity is at hand.  At this very moment, congress is
getting tough on crime, ready to fine, imprison and kill more young men for
a variety of heinous offenses against society.  I hope this shocking
incident is enough to wake up our legislatures before there are more
drive-by shootings on the information super-highway.  

First of all, we need a seven-day waiting period and a thorough background
check before anyone can get issued a user-ID.  This would give system
administrators time to find out if a user is a loon, or has been bounced
off of other systems for misbehaving.  To support this effort, congress
should establish a national database to keep track of network offenders.  

A quick scan of almost any mailing list or newsgroup will reveal sociopaths
who should have their access priviledges revoked.  And we should never
forget that network access is a priviledge and not a right.  Its ironic to
me that we license people to drive cars, but all you need to get on the
information superhighway is a MODEM.  

Of course, a waiting period won't stop network terrorists from stealing other
peoples passwords and firing off their Scud missives, but there is much
more we can do.  

By making MODEM manufacturers install something like the Clipper encryption
chip in every MODEM they sell, we could trace offensive messages right back
to their source so the Feds could confiscate the offending hardware.  

Maybe we could even use our national health plan ID cards to restrict
access to the info highway by requiring every terminal or PC keyboard to
incorporate a magnetic card reader.  

Furthermore, we should require speed licensing for the use of email
distribution lists.  Just as we have the right to bear arms but not fully
automatic weapons, there are damn few good reasons why you need to have a
mailing list.  If its too much trouble to type out the names of all the
people you are sending mail to, youre probably sending it to too many
people.  

Curtailing the use of mailing lists would drastically limit the impact that
any maladjusted weenie could have on our delicate sensibilities.  That makes
it worth any minor inconvenience it might cause.  

In the event that these steps are insufficient, we should impose stiffer
penalties on network criminals.  Theft of a password should be made a
federal felony with manditory hard time.  With "three strikes and youre
out" a third breech of netiquette should result in revocation of all
network priviledges and removal of your cable TV hookup.  

Some bleeding hearts may argue that these measures will stifle the free
exchange of ideas, but if thats what it takes to stop people from being
offended, hurt and frightened, its a small price to pay.

 
                               -30- 



<hehehe> -NS