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Re: What is the EFF doing exactly?

At 03:54 PM 9/2/96 -0700, someone purporting to be
"Vladimir Z. Nuri" <[email protected]> wrote:

[EFF / Unicorn rant, deleted. ]

>I also don't understand the anonymity fight by cpunks. it's the
>wrong battle imho. ask any remailer operators how their services
>are panning out. they will complain of the incessant spam and
>increasing litigious pressure. I don't see any technological 
>solutions to these problems. if there were, they'd have been 
>invented now. 

As a former remailer operator who quit because of spam,
and may restart when I can hack together a spam-reducing remailer,
let me comment on this.  We're only beginning to understand the 
technical questions for the parts of the problem that technology can do.
One problem is that the technical definition of spam is
"I'll know it when I see it", which is hard to write code for.
And the definition of "offensive" is "one or more letters together,
viewed by the appropriate reader", and remailers are good at finding
that sort of reader.  A lot of it is social, not technical.
But improving blocking capabilities and news-cancel capabilities helps.

And some problems are just _hard_ technically.  Take 2-way remailers -
encrypted reply blocks aren't perfect, because the system that
handles them can decrypt them.  Nymservers that depend on a different
system supporting encrypted reply blocks help, because it forces
Bad Guys to subvert two systems to identify the recipient,
and you can chain that sort of thing to make it harder.
But it's still tough, and that problem is fairly well-defined.
Getting rid of vaguely-defined things is tougher.

Mike Godwin has suggested that some of the major problems on the net
are the results of "cheap speech".  It's easy to send insults and
hate email to people, nearly anonymously, nearly free, when only a few
hostile people would bother doing it with paper mail, and most newspapers
wouldn't print it.  The News Media Establishment is threatened because
anybody can broadcast anything they want to millions of people without
spending millions of dollars for an artificially scarce TV channel
that requires government permission to broadcast on.  Readers are
swamped because 25 million Internet users sending one line of text per day
make 2 GB of Usenet/Web/Email, which is three or four orders of magnitude
beyond what most people can actually read.  Scale is tough,
and problems that are half-solvable at one scale may be insolvable
at the next order of magnitude.

Anonymous remailers support several things I want to do,
and that I want other people be able to do:
1) Let people have private conversations without being identified
by third parties.
2) Let people have private conversations without being identified
by each other, voluntarily and respecting each others' rights.
3) Let people broadcast things to the public that they might
be afraid to do otherwise.
4) Let people broadcast things to the public without their
reputations, good or bad, affecting readers' reactions.
5) Let people experiment with different personality and
conversation styles, though this doesn't strictly require anonymity.
6) Let people communicate with government officials without risk.

Not all of these things are always good; people can abuse them if
they want, and one reason for experimenting with different kinds of
remailers is to try to balance the good and bad that comes from
facilitating those conversations.  Technical capabilities of the
remailer will affect how people use it; two-way-ness is a big win.
I blocked [email protected] on my remailer real early, 
though that's mainly because the government has this silly law
against threatening the President.

>let's face it, anonymity is a pain in the ass to support. 
>maybe there are other goals that are more crucial
>that lie at the heart of anonymity. what cpunks are really
>seaking is  "assurance of freedom from retribution". when the
>problem is phrased more openly like that, other solutions become
>possible and worth consideration. 

An interesting formulation.  While there are more issues than
just preventing retribution, theft, and prejudice, that would be a good start.
Unfortunately, the two approaches I can see to achieving it are
1) Have a perfect world with perfect people in it and
        perfect people running human-rights-respecting governments
2) Don't let them know your name.

While there are groups that are working on bringing us closer to 1),
or at least as far as "1a) Have a semi-tolerable world where the
government doesn't harass you very much for what you say and
doesn't single you out as a source of funds for their great plans",
those folks have a long row to hoe.  We can do something about 2).
I'm happy to work on 1a) with people, though I won't see it in
my lifetime, but you and I can work on 2) today, and accomplish something.


#			Thanks;  Bill
# Bill Stewart, +1-415-442-2215 [email protected]
# <A HREF="http://idiom.com/~wcs"> 	
# You can get PGP software outside the US at ftp.ox.ac.uk/pub/crypto