North American Network Operators Group

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Re: Spam Control Considered Harmful

  • From: David Mercer
  • Date: Tue Oct 28 10:10:02 1997

Yes, right now the techniques Paul has used are for blocking his notion of
Spam, a certifiable Bad Thing(tm).  What is to prevent, say, China from
requiring all ISP operators to take an "Anti-Party" Black-Hole Feed,
blocking IP blocks where "dangerous" ideas are found on some hosting
operators Web Servers?  There is already at least one ISP in the US that
filters out 'un-Christian' material, using quite primitive techniques...
I'm sure they and their fellow Brothers would welcome a black hole feed
for their and related networks to block such "evil" content as
birth control material and other Bad Things(tm).

This is one, I think, that once you open the door, there is no going back.
No offense to Paul, or his good intentions, but as they say, they are what
the road to hell is paved with, no?

Just think twice, at least, I'd say, before promoting unconditional system
wide blocks on your network...Ethics is the land we're in here, and there
are no easy answers.

David Mercer
Tucson, AZ

On Tue, 28 Oct 1997, Daniel Karrenberg wrote:

> I am worried about the tools we are developing and deploying to control
> spam. 
> 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)
> Daniel
> 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 ;-).