North American Network Operators Group

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Re: Spam Control Considered Harmful

  • From: Chris MacFarlane
  • Date: Tue Oct 28 08:30:07 1997

The Moral Majority and The Promise Keepers and other fundamentalist groups
sit on white horses waiting to ride in and save us from ourselves.  What is
being said below needs to be considered.  Firstly, Paul mentioned the need
to have strong checks and balances.  What does that mean and how do we keep
him honest and ensure "we are using our powers for good"?  It's well and
fine to say that "the Nanog Group" is watching but in reality is there any
bite in that statement.  Do we have an audit and appeal system to ensure
rules are applied equally and fairly?

Next once the bulk mail protocol is in an RFC I would expect the RBL to be
disbanded certainly.  What worries me is that some other moral content issue
is sitting on the fire and we are fanning the flame by providing method to
the madness.  As easily this started out on spam, spam and spam we could see
a rise in some other groups interest in deciding "content issues" for
others.   Some thought needs to go into how to limit some of this vary type
of methodology.

One idea would be to set up a "working group" to develop subscribed to
operations guidelines and principals for ISPs.  The group could have a
charter and systems for addressing issues like this now and in future.  They
could have built in review mechanisms and audit systems.  Police ourselves
or be policed!  The frontier work Paul and company have done is great but
needs to be formalized.

Chris MacFarlane
Manager, Data Operations
ACC Telenterprises Canada
[email protected]
[email protected]

-----Original Message-----
From: Daniel Karrenberg <[email protected]>
To: [email protected] <[email protected]>
Date: Tuesday, October 28, 1997 6:41 AM
Subject: Spam Control Considered Harmful

>I am worried about the tools we are developing and deploying to control
>Some of them are esentially centralsied methods of controlling Internet
>content.  Paul's anti-spam feed for instance prevents users of some
>providers from seeing spam.  The user has no choice; they cannot opt to
>receive spam other than by switching to another provider.  Even worse:
>they may not even be aware that they are "missing" some content.
>Combatting spam is considered a Good Thing(TM) by almost everybody here,
>including myself.  However the same technology could just as easily be
>used to do Bad Things(TM).  Even worse: if it works it demonstrates that
>*centralised control* of the content of Internet services like e-mail is

>*feasible*.  This will give some people ideas we may not like, and
>sometime in the future we may ask ourselves why we have done this.  The
>end does not always justify the means.  I hope that methods like the
>anti-spam feed will not be taken up widely.  Please consider the
>consequences before you use them.
>I stress that I do not question the morality or good intentions of those
>involved.  I am just concerned about the almost ubiquitous and
>apparently unreflected zeal that spam seems to evoke and the danger of
>it making us accept methods we would otherwise despise.  I would prefer
>to see more work in technology that is less centralised and gives the
>users a choice of the content they wish to see.  Yes this may be harder
>to do, but the consequences of deploying the easier methods may be just
>too severe.
>Waehret den Anfaengen (beware of the beginnings)
>PS: I hope this is more coherent than my contribution at the meeting
>yesterday when my brain failed due to jet-lag while my mouth was still
>working perfectly ;-).