Posted-By: auto-faq 126.96.36.199
Posting-Frequency: Posted once each month
An alternative Primer on Net Abuse, Free Speech, and Usenet
Subject: 0. Table of Contents
1.1) What this document is
3. Basic Definitions
4. Basic Philosophies
4.1) Declaration of Free Speech
4.2) What is 'True Free Speech'?
4.3) What is 'net abuse'?
5. Frequently Debated Strawmen (aka Windmills)
5.1) A response to the "Alternative View" of
this "Alternative View"
6. Alternative Viewpoints: Case Histories and Stories
Subject: 1. Introduction
1.1) What this document is
This document represents an ongoing attempt to educate people about
true freedom of speech among the emerging cyber-communities. There is
a companion document to this, the USENET Site of Virtue FAQ, which
should be read AFTER this document.
If you don't know what Usenet is, you're reading the wrong document!
Go look in the newsgroup news.answers for appropriate introductory
documents. There are many, and each has their own point of view. In
order to understand the discussions here you should be familiar with
USENET in general, and have a reasonable amount of experience posting
and/or reading news.
If these documents are not in news.answers or news.announce.newusers
on your site, they can be had by anonymous ftp from rtfm.mit.edu in
the directory /pub/usenet-by-hierarchy/news/announce/newusers.
If you have a WWW browser, the following URLS should help you out:
It helps to be familiar with news administration, how news works
in general, and have kept up in some discussions on news.admin.*,
but this is not totally mandatory for understanding this document.
Also, you should believe that no expression, however annoying,
profit-oriented or counterproductive, should be prevented from being
distributed. If you do not believe in this way, this document will
probably make you angry. (If that's what you want, then read it.)
The generic opposing document to this one is located at:
Readers interested in the opposing viewpoints may wish to look at this
URL for reference.
If you wish to see what flaming in FAQs is like, read the document
that tries to respond to this document:
See section 5.1 for a cute irony to this document.
Subject: 2. Background
For a long time, I've been a loud advocate of free speech in most of
the USENET related administration groups. I've participated in a few
net.political actions to ensure the freedom of speech that I'd like
to enjoy. For my efforts, I've been publically branded a loon, insane,
idealistic, moronic, obnoxious, wacko, a kook, and other expletives
which I'd rather not go into.
Many times, I've repeated the same arguments over and over, all of
which relate to this ultimate goal of absolute free speech. Well,
after several years even a loon such as myself gets tired of repeating
the same stuff over and over. It had been suggested that I write a FAQ
of sorts on my ideas, and I felt the time was right, so here it is.
Herein lies the heart of my arguments, and questions with answers
about them. The companion document, the USENET Site of Virtue FAQ
describes a new credo that willing USENET participants can actually
adopt and use if they so desire.
I implore you not to adopt -any- credo (even this one) or philosophy
just because someone you see does so as well, for these credos only
work for individuals who have personally and honestly decided that
these are good ideas. Use your own judgement and take your power back
from those who wish to steal it from you.
Subject: 3. Basic Definitions
Here are some definitions which you'll find apply to things in this document,
and most of my arguments.
Beliefs - Networks of assumptions about the way things are.
Ethics - Rules of conduct which appease and satisfy one's own true self.
Directly opposed to Morals (see below)
Lawful Speech - That speech which does not conflict with Morals
Morals - Rules of conduct which appease and satisfy a governing, social,
or communal entity.
Subject: 4. Basic Philosophies
4.1) Declaration of Free Speech
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Humans are created
equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable
Rights, that among these are Unhindered Communications, Unregulated
Exchange of Ideas, and Freedom of Speech, that to secure these rights
the Usenet is instituted on networks of the world, that when any
administration of Usenet becomes destructive to these ends, it is the
Right of the People to alter or to abolish it and to institue new
administration, laying its foundation on such Principles, and
organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely
to effect their Free Communication.
[With much thanks to the Declaration of Independence]
4.2) What is True Free Speech?
True Free Speech is that speech which is hindered by nothing other
than the speaking individual's own ethics (see definition above).
Where True Free Speech exists, no external party may restrict someone
else's speech, for any reason, period.
Speech, in the above definition, does *not* restrict another's speech.
It can't. It takes a person to *act* on that speech to restrict
another's speech. That person, then, would be the responsible party.
A news admin setting up a news server to act is one way to create the
illusion of speech-restrictive speech.
The litmus test for True Free Speech is speech that makes you -want-
to silence another person. If that speech is not silencable by you
(whether you want to or not), you have a state of True Free Speech.
4.3) What is net abuse?
Any action that stops a properly configured transport system from
performing its normal store and forward services.
The key words are "properly configured". For that definition, you'll
have to see the "Site of Virtue" FAQ.
4.4) What is Censorship?
Censorship is the restriction of communicated ideas based on their
expression style or their content. On Usenet, this is defined as
reading or parsing anything but certain specific headers of a news
article to determine whether or not to delete it from the news spool
of a news server.
By this criterion, the following RFC 1036 headers can NOT be
interpreted in any way, in order to avoid censorship:
Also, any invokation of the "Usenet Death Penalty" by aliasing a site
out of one's feed is considered blatant censorship, unless a clear
newsfeed redundancy problem can be identified.
Subject: 5. Frequently Debated Strawmen (aka Windmills)
This section contains the many frequently debated arguments (with
"Dave Hayes" like answers) over free speech issues. If you find
yourself embroiled in a debate with a control freak, the information
below should help you out. If you find yourself embroiled in a debate
with me, you might want to save time and read below.
- Free speech is all well and good, but what is to prevent
unreasonable users from committing "net-abuse"?
The strawman here is that someone else is defining "net-abuse"
quite differently than I do above.
Any label of "net-abuse" is based on an arbitrary standard of conduct
held by a person or group of people (even mine). There is nothing that
says that this standard of conduct is the one true and right standard
of conduct. People's standards vary.
You, as a free person, have an unalienable right to a choice as to
whether or not to adopt any standard of conduct. This is based on your
ethics, not their morals. Thus, if someone labels you "unreasonable",
that's not your problem...it's theirs.
I'm not saying you should now go out and kill someone. I'm merely
stressing the importance of ethics, internal codes of conduct which
you will not violate (because -you- wrote them), in determining
whether or not you did something wrong.
- But there IS a general consensus on what net abuse is! Most news
admins have adopted it.
Don't let anyone fool you into believing that there some written
consensus on or standard of net.abuse. There isn't, and if it claims
to be, you can determine the invalidity of such a claim by observing
just how many people argue about it. Without a consensus, it's quite
arbitrary as to what people will claim abuse is.
If someone has written up something, think about whether you agreed to
abide by it or not before the fact when you are called to task on some
violation. It is the root of dishonor to hold someone responsible to a
code of conduct they didn't know about. Not only does this not work,
but it's damn unfair.
You may get localized consensi who decide to act not unlike the street
gangs in LA or the legal gangs in American Federal Government, armed
with scripts and authority, they attempt to bully people into
submission into their way. This does not mean that there is a
consensus. You can't expect 50,000 or more who come to a consensus on
an issue this complex.
Typically, the label of abuse is used as a wedge to stop someone
from posting something that isn't liked, but this isn't always the
case. Sometimes, people are genuinely trying to help things out.
Such people should be reminded of the arbitrary nature of their
standards, and of the wide variety of people on the net.
- We can't allow free speech. What if something extremely damaging is
This strawman can easily be debunked by recognizing who is defining
'damage'. See above, as this is the same as saying something is
The true test of freedom of expression is when the advocates of True
Free Speech are confronted with expression that they find they would
like to silence.
If this test is passed, the expression remains a thorn in their side.
The thorn serves a great purpose as a reminder of the true freedom
If this test is failed, the entire philosophy of True Free Speech
soon crumbles, and true freedom of expression becomes a bad thing
in the eyes of the people who tried. "After all, people will abuse
anything if given the chance", they'll say.
We already have true freedom. We just keep agreeing to give it up.
- But there really are damaging things that can be posted!
You didn't listen above. Let me try another way. Here are some
commonly dredged up examples of "damaging" information:
* recipes for strong encryption
* pornography and obscenity
* recipes for making chemical, biological, and atomic weapons
* recipes for making counterfeit money
Dr. Dimitri Vulis said it really succinctly:
"Posting such information to Usenet doesn't force anyone to use it to
take some illegal action. And even if publishing such information by
itself violates your local laws, it's up to your local law enforcement
agents to silence you, not the Usenet Cabal."
- There is no cabal. Anyone saying this is obviously a kook.
Ah, and if there was a "secret society", what better way to hide
it than by denying it and causing those who do not to look foolish?
A "Cabal" of usenet has been identified. This Cabal is defined as:
"Those net citizens, including some usenet administrators, who by their
own consensus reality, set themselves apart from and superior to
usenet users and use this illusory superiority to restrict or censor
any usenet user's attempts at communication through usenet."
The Cabal generally works in concert with each other over their own
private channels of communication. You can tell a Cabal member by the
arrogant holier-than-thou way that they refuse or block your attempts
at communication, regardless of external perceptions of reasonability
about those attempts.
Just to be clear, I have no reason to believe that these people are
acting out of deliberate malice. It's simply a trait of human beings
to abuse positions of power and respect to their own ends. In this
case this trait is damaging the freedom of usenet.
- If a lot of people complain about someone, there must be something
that person is doing wrong.
Just because a mob comes to your door and demands to lynch someone,
doesn't mean that the someone in question did anything worthy of
being lynched. Usenet has become mob-oriented with several issues,
most notably the famous C&S spamming, demonstrating the new jargon
Mobs are generally ignorant, dense, and single-minded. They have
a tendancy to be generated by emotional issues, with subsequent
loss of sanity for most involved. Do you really want to trust the
judgement of someone else to this phenomena?
Yes, once you become a sysadmin, the rest of the Usenet community will
expect that you are prepared to discipline your users when they engage
in whatever they decide to call net-abuse. Hopefully, by then, you
will have grown past that.
And what does this discipline really accomplish? Usually, nothing.
- Someone is defaming me. They should be silenced.
Forget USENET, what if these people were to say the same things
in person, or to other people while you are not present?
Again, Free Speech requires that people have the *ability* to defame
you. Remember that you also have the ability to defend yourself. If
such defamation gets too intense, see your lawyer, and attempt to get
the defamer to agree to stop.
- Free speech means the ability to say what you want. It does
not guarantee you _where_ you want to say it and _how_ you
want to say it.
This is a definitions strawman. If you can't say something
where and how you want to say it, is your speech truly free?
Would you like some arbitrary person telling you where and
how you can say certain things? I can see it now:
"Sure you have free speech, at 3AM on channel 145 for 2.5 minutes."
Anyone using this argument has no understanding or desire for
free speech, by the very fact that they use this argument.
Free speech, as defined in this document, guarantees that you can say
anything, anywhere, and anyway you want to.
- USENET operates on certain principles. Create your own net if you
don't like the way it runs.
This is a political hostage strawman. The arguer is attempting to
convince you that everyone else likes things the way they are, and
that everyone else is in control of USENET.
If you are running a site, this is patently false. USENET is a collective
anarchy, where site admins have authority over their part of the collective.
You have absolute control over your site to run it any way you want to.
If you aren't running a site, don't waste your breath arguing with
these people. Find a Site of Virtue to post from, and support Sites
of Virtue. That way, we -will- create our own net.
- If you argue for free speech, people aren't going to take you seriously.
This is an emotional hostage strawman. The arguer is attempting to play
on your need to be taken seriously to coerce you into doing things their
way...or they won't take you seriously.
There are others who won't take you seriously if you cave into these
coercions. Still, others won't take you seriously at all. If we become
affected by everyone's impressions of us, we will certainly be candidates
for an insane asylum.
I would think that you don't really need to be taken seriously by
anybody who would attempt to coerce you in this way.
-But this is Usenet, a place where speaking is a privilege, not a right.
That all depends on your site admin. If you are at a Site of Virtue,
speaking is a right.
-Freedom of speech does not mean yelling FIRE! in a crowded theater.
Patently false. Yes, it does mean that.
Practically, if you hear someone yell "FIRE!" then you have some
decisions to make. Are you going to believe that person or not,
especially when you see nothing? If you do believe this person, are
you going to run for the door like a crazed animal, or quickly make
your way to the exit in a civilized manner?
Whichever you choose, it's -your- choice and -your- responsibility.
It is -not- the responsibility of the person who yelled "FIRE!"
that -you- chose one direction or another. Any other decision
strips your power away from you.
- It's wrong to force me to read your trash.
Given that people have to manually select articles from a menu, it's
hard to imagine someone forcing their fingers to press certain keys in
a certain order, so that people are forced to read anything.
Indeed, the entire concept of force becomes ludicrous when one recognizes
that one can simply close one's eyes and not read anything presented to
This does bring up a point, however. There -is- a place for
censorship. Your personal newsreaders.
- But who gave you free speech rights on my computer?
YOU did when you loaded the news transport software. According to RFC1036,
making a news server and getting a feed allows the transport of messages
between your news server and another. If you do not specifically filter
messages, those messages are allowed by implication.
- You can't think like that. Your reputation will suffer.
The value of a set of words is contained within the set of words, NOT
in who said them. It is a common mistake of most human beings to judge
the validity of a set of words mostly upon the reputation of the
- Usenet is free. Internet service isn't.
Oh come on. This is confusing 'free=not under control of some
arbitrary power' and 'free=without cost or payment; gratis'.
You shouldn't be paying for censored news. If you are, you are
probably wasting your money.
5.1) A response to the "Alternative View" of this Alternative View.
Consider the following excerpt from this FAQ:
"While all of the people who call themselves 'Freedom Knights' give
lip sevice to free speech, some of the most prolific of them seem to
be more interested in gaining power for themselves. They have been
known to post things like 'newsadmins are not necessary to the
people's usenet,` which is patently ludicrous because news servers do
not run themselves, or ad-hominem attacks against people who do not
take them seriously, such as accusing UUnet newsadmin David Lawrence
of raping children.
These so-called Freedom Knights have done more to hurt the
credibility of Dave Hayes and his goals than anything else ever
I find it laughingly ironic that the news admins who are interested
in "gaining power for themselves" can spot this so readily in those
who call themselves Freedom Knights. This is a fine example of a
characteristic nature of humans: that which pisses us off the most
is but a reflection of our own nature.
Most of these people (including the FAQ writer) cannot read. Here are
some things I think people should know.
-No one is known as a Freedom Knight by calling themself that. Freedom
Knights are known by their deeds. Some on the Freedom Knights mailing
list have taken to harsh actions. That is their business, and not
mine. They are not only there on the list as an excellent litmus test
for free speech...but most of those people they are referring to have
been so fed up with the fascist-like actions of the news Cabal that
they are through being nice.
-Credibility is ultimately a fool's desire. I am rarely willing to put
myself at the mercy of someone else's standard of right and wrong, but
if I was to do so...I can think of no worse group of cliquishly
machevellian people to enslave my actions to than those Cabal members
who are the denziens of news.admin.*.
Subject: 6. Alternative Viewpoints: Case Histories and Stories
Often, the dishonorable acts of administrators can cause radical
changes in people's willingness to cooperate and a person's direction
of participation. In this section, I offer the words, viewpoints,
histories, and stories of other people on the net who have been
the effect of a rogue administrator or clan thereof.
In order to debias the stark content of the words, the identities
of these people are being left to the imagination of the reader.
Please try and see what they are saying, rather than attempting
to guess who said it.
6.1) One user's viewpoint of net history and politics
UUNET was a for-profit company from its very beginning, at least 10
years ago. It used to get lots of $$$ from the U.S.Government. Now
it's no longer getting $$ from the government, so it tries to peddle
its services to businesses and the general public. One of the services
they sell is the access/feed to Usenet.
UUNET did not create Usenet, contrary to what they may claim, and have
no right to control anything in it. In fact, most of the cabal members
who try to gain control of Usenet are relative newcomers who have made
no contributions to the development of Usenet.
When I started reading Usenet about the time of the Great Renaming,
the various folks who cooperated on setting up Usenet (mostly sys
admins at schools and research labs) agreed on a more-or-less
democratic procedure for creating new newgroups: the proponent would
conduct a poll to see if there's enough interest to warrant creating
the group. The poll had to rely on the honor of the participants: they
were expected to vote once, and to vote NO for valid reasons. Once the
poll was completed, someone would issue a 'newgroup' control article
and all sites would create the newsgroup.
This was before David Lawrence and all the other human trash that came
onto Usenet later and became known as the 'usenet cabal'. Here are
some of the changes the Cabal attempted to institute in the group
1. One of the cabal members, Kent Paul Dolan, was caught blatantly
cheating in the poll for the newsgroups who reorg he proposed. Rather
than penalize the cabal, the cabal imposed on the rest of the Usenet a
system of 'Usenet volunteer votatakers'. This way, the cheatting by
Cabal members would be harder to detect.
Basically, when one of their own was caught cheating, they created the
system off UVV's that inconvenienced everyone _other_ than the cabal
and made the blatant cheating by the likes of Jan Isley and Bill Aten
harder to detect.
2. The function of spaff used to be to announce the results of the
interest polls. However there was at least one case when a sex-related
newsgroup passed the 'vote' and David Lawrence refused to create
it. (I guess he's not into sex.) This was before the cabal started
rigging 'votes' making them totally meaningless. Today the Cabal would
have just forged enough anonymous no votes.
3. Another change instituted by the Cabal a few years ago is the
requirement that before a new group proposal even gets to the uvv
'vote', it must go through a cabal screening process known as
'group-advice'. Examples of group-advice's censorship include the
recent announcement that no new unmoderated newsgroups will be
permitted in soc.culture.* (too much flaming going on in the existing
newsgroups), and their insistence that most new newgroups be moderated
-- with the cabal picking subservient moderators.
Usenet is a popular store-and-forward conferencing system. There are
other such systems, like Fidonet. Those who don't like free Usenet
should go elsewhere to sergvices like AOL or COmpuServe or Prodigy and
have their own censored forums there. They must not be allowed to take
Again, INN comes configured to honor all of tale's newgroups, but not
newgroups issued by others. Honorable sites, like Netcom, honor all
newgroups and drop all rmgroups.
Because 'email@example.com' is a generic name used by INN, David
Lawrence no longer has any exclusive right to it. Anyone is free to
issue newgroups and rmgroups in tale's name. However it's more
honorable to issue newgroups under one's own name.
It is not our objective to destroy the UVVs or the group
advice. Rather, we seek to deprive them of their monopoly. ANYONE can
issue a newgroup on Usenet.
The UVV, the group-advice, et al, should be free to play their silly
power games, to hold rigged elections, and to newgroup or rmgroup
anything they like. Sites are free to honor only tale's
newgroups/rmgroups, which is the default INN confoguration. We hope
that the majority of Usenet sites will choose to act honorably and
carry ALL newsgroups. We also expect that most new newsgroup
proponents won't deal with the dishonest and abusive group-advice,
because they won't have to -- they can get pretty good propagation by
issing the newgroup themselves. No one but masochists and cabal
members will go through the humiliating and unpleasant process of
getting 'advice' from group advice, because the marginal gain (the
sites who'll carry cabal's groups, but not free groups) will be
immaterial. Let the cabal create a moderated news.groups and
news.admin.net-abuse.* if they want to. They have lost control of the
group creation process and will never regain it.
Tale got into the position of issuing newgroups for the new newsgroups
that passed the vote by default: spaff quit and no one else wanted to
take this boring duty. However tale's been trying to abuse this
position to silence his opponents and to make a few quick bucks for
UUNET. So far, he's only hurt UUNET with his net-abuse.
6.2) An excerpt from the alt.sex.sounds FAQ
In closing I'd like to add something VERY funny I found in
regards to ADMIN-TYPES that have become over-zealous and
closed-minded. It was posted in news.admin.net-abuse.misc by
firstname.lastname@example.org (impLAnt) . I found it to be one of the funniest, most
on-target articles I have ever read. Enjoy. Keep your minds open and
your tapes rolling.
email@example.com (Peter da Silva) wrote:
<yawn; groin scratch>. coffee, please. Robert L. Chapman's _Dictionary
of American Slang_ (Harper & Row, 1986) defines:
kook : 1 n fr 1950s teenagers, an eccentric person; = nut, screwball:
'The bomb cannot be exploded by a single 'kook'" -- Nation / "The
early Streisand played kook" --Look 2. modifier: '...did a kook piece
with dancers' -- Village Voice 3 n surfers, a novice surfer. [Fr
cuckoo or coo-coo; early 1900's; crazy, very eccentric = nutty; fr the
bird _cuculus canorus_, that cries "coocoo", remarkable for depositing
its eggs in the nests of other birds].
Beyond the KoTM definition, we also tend to file under "kook" those
self-important, self-aggrandizing sysadmin sorts. Chiefly, the ones
who've dug their little net.techie foxholes a little too deeply to see
out of: who have spent too many man-years politicking, sucking up, and
worming their way into imaginary "status"; and are now unable to think
rationally or philosophically in "real world" terms because they no
longer have a "real world" for reference.
The term "foxholes" is used advisedly, for they see USENET as
war...replete with dehumanized "enemies" and various acts of high-tech
propoganda, disinformation, and subterfuge. As un-hired, non-paid <!>
and non-professional rogue mercenaries, they somehow believe their
own "devotion" and "contributions to the net" [read: years of phony
obsessive altruism] must be repaid by the "users" they typically
degrade and disrespect.
This infectious fascism manifests itself, Stockholm syndrome-like,
within these same "users" in the form of domain ghettoization (a la
AOL) and vigilantism (complaint-generators and net.cop wannabes). The
fallout from such shenanigans instills a general fear & loathing;
their circa 1985 model of USENET withstands neither the onslaught of
traffic, nor the freedoms "users" demand and expect as manifest
destiny. The fact that the world will little note nor long remember
them confuses no one else; that USENET simply needs them no longer (if
ever) is a jagged little pill they can't seem to swallow.
Sounds like your footwear, Peteness. When the jackboot fits...
Subject: Revision History
$Log: freedom-faq.1,v $
Revision 1.9 1996/09/30 06:37:19 dave
Added section 5.1. Added the funny blurb from alt.sex.sounds.
Revision 1.8 1996/04/27 19:52:01 dave
Added reference to J.D. Falk's FAQ after he agreed to reference
this FAQ in his.
Revision 1.7 1996/04/16 08:31:53 dave
Added section 6
Revision 1.6 1996/03/13 22:56:11 dave
/Added Dr. Vulis suggested changes: Approved line = censorship,
examples of speech commonly considered damage, other misc.
Revision 1.5 1996/03/04 00:03:59 dave
Added definition of Cabal
Revision 1.4 1996/02/28 21:53:33 dave
Changed libel back to defamation.
Revision 1.3 1996/02/28 00:32:34 dave
Changed "slander" to "libel", as the latter is more appropriate
Revision 1.2 1996/02/19 08:16:15 dave
Tightened up the definition of TFS, added a definition for Censorship,
added a few words here and there for da flow.
Revision 188.8.131.52 1996/02/19 07:52:11 dave
Dave Hayes - Altadena CA, USA - firstname.lastname@example.org
Freedom Knight of Usenet - http://www.jetcafe.org/~dave/usenet
What is it that makes a complete stranger dive into an icy river to
save a solid gold baby? Maybe we'll never know.
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Send corrections/additions to the FAQ Maintainer:
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Last Update August 08 2012 @ 06:20 AM